California lawmakers aim to teach students how to spot fake news

This news is true, read all about it: A couple of California lawmakers are joining the fight against fake news.

They propose tackling the issue by teaching the state’s students how to read critically and spot fake news — content that’s presented by a seemingly legitimate source — which has been in the spotlight because of its role in the U.S. presidential election.

Last week, state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, both introduced legislation that aims to incorporate media literacy into the state’s education curriculum.

“My bill is about giving students the tools to be informed consumers of media throughout their lives,” Dodd told SiliconBeat in an email last week.” His bill, SB 135, proposes that the State Board of Education “ensure that media literacy is integrated into social science curricula” for students in grades 1 to 12.

” ‘Media literacy’ means the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via electronic or digital media and the ability to synthesize, analyze, and produce mediated messages,” Dodd’s bill reads.

AB 155, the bill from Gomez, proposes that the state board incorporate “civic online reasoning” into the standards and frameworks for English, mathematics, history and social sciences and science for students in grades 7 to 12.

” ‘Civic online reasoning’ means the ability to judge the credibility and quality of information found on Internet Web sites, including social media,” Gomez’s bill says.

Both bills cited a recent Stanford study that found that today’s youth find it hard to determine where news is coming from and whether it’s from a source that can be trusted, or even whether it’s news and not sponsored content. As we wrote in November, that’s worrisome as more and more young people get their news online and from social media.

Dodd acknowledged that it will take years to make changes to the state’s curriculum.

“Thoughtfully and comprehensively integrating this line of study into the existing social science curriculum won’t happen overnight, so we can’t afford to delay starting the process,” Dodd told SiliconBeat. “I’m hopeful that we can come together to help prepare our future leaders.”

Among the most high-profile examples of how fake news influenced the U.S. presidential election involves a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. Last month, a gunman opened fire at Comet Ping Pong, saying he was investigating whether Hillary Clinton and campaign manager John Podesta were really running a child sex-trafficking ring from there.

Facebook, Google and others are grappling with how to deal with fake news that ends up on their sites. That includes fake news stories shared on Facebook, and fake news articles that show up in Google’s search results.


Photo illustration from Thinkstock


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