Slotkin Leads Bill to Boost Education on Disinformation, Prevent Foreign Interference in U.S. Political Process

October 11, 2019
Press Release
Bill mirrors recommendation in bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report to combat foreign influence

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Lauren Underwood (IL-14) introduced the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act today, a bill to strengthen media literacy and disinformation education.

The bill introduction follows the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report detailing Russia’s robust and ongoing disinformation campaign to influence the U.S. political process, stating that, “addressing the challenge of disinformation in the long-term will ultimately need to be tackled by an informed and discerning population of citizens who are both alert to the threat and armed with the critical thinking skills necessary to protect against malicious influence.” The report includes a specific recommendation for “a public initiative propelled by federal funding… focused on building media literacy from an early age would help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.”

“We know that foreign entities continue to target ads and disinformation at voters in states like Michigan, that seek to divide our communities and influence our political process,” said Slotkin. “An important part of safeguarding our country against foreign influence is making sure individual citizens have the tools to spot that disinformation. In this new age of digital information warfare, education is critical -- and I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bill to help encourage media literacy education.”

“During the 2016 election, Russia waged an extensive dis- and mis-information campaign targeting American voters, and our foreign adversaries continue to attempt to interfere with our elections” said Langevin, who earlier this year led an effort to include civics education in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020. “We must combat this grave threat to our democracy, and increasing media literacy is an important tool to improve resiliency. I am proud to join Representative Slotkin to safeguard our democracy and better educate the American people on how to identify misinformation.”

“Election security is paramount and need not be a partisan issue,” said Houlahan. “We are all committed to protecting our American elections from any form of foreign influence, including disinformation. That’s why I’m proud to support the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act. Every American should be given the tools to assess information they read online. Media literacy is crucial as we move forward in this digital age.”

“Disinformation is a national security threat,” said Sherrill. “Experts testifying at the hearing I held last month on online imposters and disinformation reiterated that we are seeing a surge in coordinated disinformation efforts particularly around hot-button political issues and our democratic elections. It is essential that we commit more resources in the way of innovation and public education to combat these growing threats.”

"We know that foreign adversaries are working to interfere in future elections, so the time is now to act to protect our democracy and the integrity of U.S. elections,” said Underwood. "I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill that will provide Americans with resources needed to identify misinformation.”

Foreign adversaries are using social and traditional media platforms to influence political processes in the United States and in democracies across the world. Experts agree that one of the best ways to combat foreign influence campaigns is to educate people on how to identify misinformation. Improving digital media literacy will ensure American citizens are able to access, analyze, and evaluate information. While media literacy is important for media consumers of all ages, media literacy education that begins at an early age can cultivate life-long skills. 

 

The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act would: 

  • Create a Department of Education grant program to support K-12 digital citizenship and media literacy education. 
  • The grant program would be available to local educational agencies to incorporate media literacy into existing curriculum, establish new curriculum, hire educators experienced with media literacy, and promote educator professional development in media literacy. 
  • Funds could also be used for state education agencies to establish media literacy advisory councils to create state-wide guidelines and best practices for media literacy education, and for state education agencies to implement the advisory councils’ recommendations.
  • $20 million in grant funding would be authorized for the Department of Education to administer.

 

Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced a similar bill in the Senate, which was endorsed by the National Association for Media Literacy (NAMLE), Media Literacy Now, The University of Rhode Island Media Education Lab, Urs Gasser, the Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and Abigail de Kosnik, the Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media.

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