- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and PensionsIntroducedJuly 23rd, 2019
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 2240?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 2240
In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced this bill to combat foreign interference campaigns by improving media literacy education that teaches students skills to identify misinformation online:
“Adversaries are targeting our democracy with sophisticated information campaigns designed to divide Americans and undermine our political system. One of the best ways we can fight back is to give people the tools they need to identify these disinformation campaigns and that begins with educating students. Effective media literacy education teaches students to access, analyze, and evaluate information. My legislation will help combat information warfare by giving young Americans the skills they need to distinguish truth from fiction and empower them to make informed decisions about the news and politics.”
In her press release, Sen. Klobuchar adds that ensuring Americans have the skills they need to make informed decisions about media content is “one of the critical ways” for the U.S. to combat election interference. Her office also notes that media literacy education is needed to “empower young people to make educated decisions about advertisements, controlled substances, nutrition, and physical and mental health.”
Media Literacy Now is among a number of media literacy organizations that support this bill. Its president and founder, Erin McNeill, says:
“Media literacy skills are clearly essential to being an informed citizen today, as well as for the health, well-being, and economic participation of all. As advanced communications technology becomes more accessible, policymakers at all levels must elevate media literacy education as a priority to ensure that these important life skills become an accepted element of education. This bill raises the conversation to the national level, while helping educators on the ground address media literacy and digital citizenship challenges in a way that fits their local culture.”
Renee Hobbs, a professor of Communication Studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island, writes favorably of this bill. She notes that while teacher and educators have risen to the challenge of developing their own knowledge and digital competencies to teach their students digital literacy, “to scale this kind of training and support to reach all elementary and secondary teachers, we need the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act.” Hobbs adds:
“It’s not brain surgery to make sure Americans possess the skills they need to make informed decisions about media content. In fact, it’s a form of empowerment that children and young people find fascinating… This bill could go a long way to advancing programs in media literacy that benefit American children and teens… In teaching undergraduate students, I see how the lack of media literacy in their K-12 education puts them at a severe disadvantage in terms of making sense of their information environments. Students need support to identify, evaluate and assess political disinformation campaigns. Indeed, many of my own undergraduate students were tricked by the Blacktivist Facebook profile in 2016, which offered snappy memes targeting African-Americans in order to discourage them from voting. Blacktivist was one of the campaigns developed by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), whose propaganda was spread through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter campaigns that reached 126 million users in the United States.”
This bill has six Democratic cosponsors. It is also endorsed by Media Literacy Now, the University of Rhode Island Media Education Lab, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE).
Of Note: When she introduced this bill, Sen. Klobuchar’s office cited special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in its press release. In his report, Mueller revealed that the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm,” created accounts on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to post content that reached about 126 million Americans from 2013-2018.
State lawmakers across the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to identify misinformation. Legislation to this effect has been passed in Washington, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Mexico. Hans Zeiger, a Republican state senator in Washington who cosponsored that state’s bill on this issue, says:
“I don’t think it’s a partisan issue to appreciate the importance of good information and the teaching of tools for navigating the information environment. There is such a thing as an objective source versus other kinds of sources, and that’s an appropriate thing for schools to be teaching.”
Advocates say the K-12 curriculum hasn’t kept pace with technology, so while many children spend hours online every day, they still struggle to understand the content they’re consuming. Thus, advocates have spent years pushing schools to incorporate media literacy — including the ability to evaluate and analyze sources of information — into lesson plans in civics, language arts, science and other subjects.
A 2017 study published by Stanford University researchers warned that middle school- to college-aged student were “easily duped” and ill-equipped to use reason with online information. In their paper, the researchers warned that “democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.”
- Sponsoring Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Press Release
- Advance Media Lit Through the Law (Blog Post by Renee Hobbs, In Favor)
- Wisconsin Gazette (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / FatCamera)