Here’s something that absolutely, undeniably, 100 percent happened: California lawmakers introduced legislation to help students become more media literate.
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, on Wednesday both announced bills that would direct a state curriculum board to develop resources for schools to teach students how to distinguish what news stories they can trust.
“Recently, we have seen the corrupting effects of a deliberate propaganda campaign driven by fake news,” Gomez said in a statement. “When fake news is repeated, it becomes difficult for the public to discern what’s real. These attempts to mislead readers pose a direct threat to our democracy.”
The phenomenon of “fake news” – made-up articles on what may appear to be legitimate journalistic websites, often appealing to hyperpartisan sentiment and shared across social media – exploded into controversy during the 2016 election.
False stories about President-elect Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were widespread throughout the campaign, sometimes leading to real consequences, as when a man fired a rifle inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria while investigating claims that it housed a child sex abuse ring led by Clinton.
Warnings that Russia helped spread the disinformation in an effort to influence the outcome of the election and undermine U.S. security led Congress to pass funding for new government efforts to identify and counter foreign propaganda.
Gomez’s Assembly Bill 155 envisions incorporating analytical skills for online information into subjects ranging from English to science at the high school and middle school level, while Dodd’s Senate Bill 135 would add media literacy training to social sciences standards for first through 12th grades. A recent study out of the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that students were easily duped by fake news sites and sponsored content.
“By giving students the proper tools to analyze the media they consume, we can empower them to make informed decisions,” Dodd said in a statement.