There’s gathering contention over a newly-introduced California law that appears to be timed with the kick-off of presidential campaigns. The law, Assembly Bill 873, is touted by its supporters as a tool to help students differentiate between accurate, impartial information and opinionated “misinformation.” However, critics see it as yet another ploy by the state to undermine and mute non-mainstream media channels in the minds of young children.
Santa Clara University ed-tech professor, Pedro Hernandez-Ramos, voiced his views on the topic, saying, as reported by the Washington Times. “Legislation became necessary at the state level when the federal government didn’t take action.” He further accuses President Trump of manipulating information to serve his own interests and causing harm to others.
In contrast, Williamson M. Evers, an education policy expert at the libertarian Independent Institute in Oakland, observed that the push for control over disseminated information is not limited to one political side. As a former assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration, he argues that misinformation has historically stemmed from all political spectrums, including leftist, rightist, and centrists. He voices concern that too many educators hold the incorrect presumption that misinformation is exclusively right-wing.
“Media literacy is a term the left uses as a euphemism for silencing conservative voices,” said Dan Schneider, a lawyer at the Media Research Center to the WT. “The schools that adopt it are told that Ted Cruz’s podcast is unreliable but Al Franken’s podcast is reliable.”
The law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 13, will take effect on January 1, 2024. Defining media literacy as teaching “skills necessary to safely, responsibly, and critically consume and use social media and other forms of media,” the law requires the California Department of Education to mandatorily interpolate media literacy lessons into all K-12 curriculum subjects. The law also stresses ethical standards in digital journalism and promotes responsible media content creation by students.
The legislation emphasizes that online misinformation can pose significant risks by disturbing international peace, interfering with democratic decisions, and posing threats to public health. It was written and introduced by Menlo Park Rep. Marc Berman, a Democrat representing the San Francisco region.
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