The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act would establish a grant program at the Department of Education to help develop digital citizenship and media literacy education across grades K-12

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced new legislation to combat foreign interference campaigns by improving media literacy education that teaches students skills to identify misinformation online. Foreign adversaries are using information warfare to influence democracies across the world, including in the United States. One of the critical ways our nation can combat this interference is to make sure Americans possess the skills they need to make informed decisions about media content. Media literacy education is also an important way to empower young people to make educated decisions about advertisements, controlled substances, nutrition, and physical and mental health. The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act would create a grant program at the Department of Education to help states develop media literacy education and fund existing initiatives across grades K-12. The grant program would be available on a state and local level to develop state-wide media literacy education guidelines, incorporate media literacy into curriculum, hire educators experienced with media literacy, and promote educator professional development in media literacy. The legislation authorizes $20 million in grant funding for the program. The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act is cosponsored by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

“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,” Klobuchar said. “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.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference found that between 2013 and 2018, Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) operated influence campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter campaigns that reached 126 million users in the United States. Those accounts spread divisive content meant to pit Americans against each other and transmitted misleading information designed to disenfranchise minority groups. The IRA’s strategy linked multiple social media accounts that had a significant number of followers and maintained personas on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act is endorsed by Media Literacy Now, the University of Rhode Island Media Education Lab, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE).

"Every child who goes to school learns how to read and write, but schools today need to teach more than print literacy. Digital media literacy--skills for evaluating, interpreting, and creating computer-based information, especially online information--can, and must, be widely taught in all grades, from Kindergarten through college. This bill will help teachers across the United States develop curricula and pedagogical tools that will boost our population's digital literacy to a high level. We must become a digitally literate nation. The current generation of young learners in the U.S., and future generations, must grow up with a robust education in how to make sense of all of the text, image, video, and sound that they access every day through digital devices, if we want them to shape their world from a position of understanding rather than ignorance,” said Abigail De Kosnik, Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media and Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley.

“NAMLE is very encouraged by the efforts being made on a federal level to support media literacy efforts around the U.S. We have known for some time that for Media Literacy Education to thrive in this country it must become a national priority, and the bill being presented by Senator Klobuchar to promote digital citizenship and media literacy puts us on the right path. In the ever changing digital world, we must be willing to prioritize and support media literacy for all citizens. We thank the Senator’s office for their efforts,” said Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

"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," said Erin McNeill, president and founder of Media Literacy Now.

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight over federal elections, Klobuchar has been leading the fight to protect our future elections from foreign interference. Last month, Klobuchar and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation to expand the scope of the prohibition on political activity by foreign nationals. The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to prevent foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, satellite, or digital communications naming a candidate for office at any point in time, and prevents foreign governments and foreign lobbyists from buying issue ads. Klobuchar also leads legislation to require backup paper ballots, provide funding for election security grants to states for cybersecurity improvements and audits, strengthen federal response to election security interference, and establish accountability measures for election technology vendors.

Earlier this year, Klobuchar and Warner reintroduced the Honest Ads Act with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite. Klobuchar has also led other election security legislation in the Senate including the Global Electoral Exchange Act and the Invest in Our Democracy Act.

Klobuchar has sent numerous letters urging departments, agencies, and private companies to improve election security. In April, Klobuchar led a letter to the DHS and FBI urging them to establish a task force combining the efforts of social media platforms, local election officials, and also reporters and independent researchers, in finding and stopping disinformation and misinformation campaigns. In March, Klobuchar sent a letter to the three biggest voting machine companies in the U.S. asking about election security. Klobuchar has also sent numerous letters to the DHS and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), urging them to prioritize election security measures.

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