U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, is one of seven members of Congress to introduce the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act on Oct. 11, 2019, to strengthen media literacy and disinformation education.
Slotkin joins U.S. reps. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Xochiti Torres Small of New Mexico, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and Lauren Underwood of Illinois in introducing the bill, which mirrors recommendations in the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report to combat foreign influence.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report details 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,” Slotkin said. “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.”
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.
Sen. 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.