IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
February 13, 2023
Ms. Klobuchar (for herself, Mr. Bennet, Ms. Smith, Mrs. Feinstein, and Mr. Whitehouse) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
To promote digital citizenship and media literacy.
This Act may be cited as the
Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act.
Congress finds the following:
People in the United States rely on information from mass media, social media, and digital media to make decisions about all aspects of social, economic, and political life, including products and services consumption, employment, career and professional development, family and leisure choices, health and wellness, and democratic engagement. Ensuring that people in the United States possess the skills to make these informed decisions based on media begins early in life.
Adversaries from Russia, China, and Iran are using information warfare to influence democracies across the world, and terrorist organizations often use digital communications to recruit members. The United States can fight these influences by ensuring that citizens of the United States possess the necessary skills to identify disinformation and misinformation and think critically about their digital activities.
Media literacy education has proven critical to allies of the United States in building national resilience to foreign disinformation campaigns. Countries like Estonia, Finland, and Ukraine have developed and implemented successful media literacy education programs in schools that have helped counter Russian disinformation campaigns. The United States has also invested in and promoted media literacy education abroad, including in the Baltics.
Following Russia’s increased aggression towards Ukraine and the West, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, media literacy skills have been important in ensuring Ukrainians and citizens of Western allied countries are not influenced by Russian disinformation.
In order to build similar national resilience against foreign disinformation in the United States, Congress has recommended investing in media literacy education.
The bipartisan and bicameral Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s 2020 report recommended that the United States invest in media literacy, writing that
[b]y promoting modern civics education and digital literacy programs, the U.S. Government can assist in enhancing the average American’s ability to discern the trustworthiness of online content, and thereby reduce the impact of malicious foreign cyber-enabled information campaigns, and concluded that Congress should authorize a grant program
to improve digital citizenship and to incorporate effective digital literacy curricula in American classrooms at the K–12 level and beyond.
Similarly, the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate stated, in a bipartisan report released during the 116th Congress,
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 Committee then recommended that a
public initiative—propelled by Federal funding but led in large part by state and local education institutions—focused on building media literacy from an early age would help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.
Media literacy and digital citizenship education also empowers young people and is critical to improving their health and safety, preventing cyberbullying, and enabling young people to make informed decisions about products and services, including advertisements and controlled substances.
Social media and other online activities have been shown to have serious negative impacts on the mental and physical health of young people. Many studies have found that media literacy education is one of the most successful strategies for countering body image issues and eating disorders in children. The National Eating Disorders Association, in partnership with California State University, Northridge, published a Digital Media Literacy toolkit to help students, including high school students, learn skills to think critically about body images and the online content they see.
Education and childhood development experts, as well as academic and medical researchers, have recommended that a key method for preventing and countering the negative impacts described in paragraph (9) is to teach media literacy skills to young people beginning early in their education.
A successful and inclusive media literacy program must be directed at students beginning in kindergarten and should continue throughout the completion of postsecondary education. Media literacy education must be inclusive and accessible for all students, including multilingual students, students with limited proficiency in English, and students with disabilities. Learning to critically analyze and create media is a lifelong process that can be developed by integrating media literacy competencies into academic curriculum across content areas and disciplines.
In this Act:
The term Assistant Secretary means the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.
The term digital citizenship means the ability to—
safely, responsibly, and ethically use communication technologies and digital information technology tools and platforms;
create and share media content using principles of social and civic responsibility and with awareness of the legal and ethical issues involved; and
participate in the political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of life related to technology, communications, and the digital world by consuming and creating digital content, including media.
The term eligible entity means—
a State educational agency;
a local educational agency;
a public library; or
a qualified nonprofit organization.
The terms child with a disability, local educational agency, State educational agency, specialized instructional support personnel, and universal design for learning have the meanings given those terms in section 8101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7801).
The term media literacy means the ability to—
access relevant and accurate information through media in a variety of forms;
critically analyze media content and the influences of different forms of media;
evaluate the comprehensiveness, relevance, credibility, authority, and accuracy of information;
make educated decisions based on information obtained from media and digital sources;
operate various forms of technology and digital tools;
reflect on how the use of media and technology may affect private and public life; and
protect oneself from online content that presents a clear risk to health and safety, including child sexual abuse material and content promoting illegal drugs, self-harm, or eating disorders.
Qualified nonprofit organization
The term qualified nonprofit organization means an organization that—
is described in paragraph (3) or (4) of section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of that Code; and
has a mission to improve childhood education, childhood development, or media literacy.
Grant program established
The Assistant Secretary shall establish a program to promote media literacy, through which the Assistant Secretary shall award grants to eligible entities to enable those eligible entities to carry out the activities described in subsection (c).
An eligible entity that desires a grant under this section shall submit an application to the Assistant Secretary at such time and in such manner as the Assistant Secretary may require, including, at a minimum—
a description of the activities the eligible entity intends to carry out with the grant funds;
an estimate of the costs associated with such activities; and
such other information and assurances as the Assistant Secretary may require.
Use of funds
State educational agencies
An eligible entity that is a State educational agency receiving a grant under this section shall use grant funds to carry out one or more of the following activities:
Creating and supporting a media literacy advisory council to—
provide recommendations about digital citizenship and media literacy guidelines;
identify barriers and opportunities for implementing media literacy in kindergarten through grade 12 in public schools in the State for all students, including students who are children with disabilities;
identify best practices and effective models for media literacy education, including incorporating universal design for learning and providing additional accommodations for students who are children with disabilities when needed;
identify existing models of curriculum and existing policies in different States that are aimed at overcoming the barriers identified in subclause (II);
gather data or conduct research to assess the media literacy and digital citizenship competencies of students, teachers, or specialized instructional support personnel;
submit a report to the State educational agency containing findings and recommendations regarding the items identified under this clause; and
annually update those findings and recommendations.
Assisting local educational agencies in the development of units of instruction on media literacy, either as a new subject or as a part of the existing curriculum.
Assisting local educational agencies in developing means of evaluating student learning in media literacy.
Assisting local educational agencies in developing or providing professional development for teachers that relates to media literacy.
Media literacy advisory council
The media literacy advisory council described in subparagraph (A)(i) shall include experts in media literacy, including academic experts, individuals from nonprofit organizations, individuals with expertise in education for students who are children with disabilities, teachers, librarians, representatives from parent organizations, educators, administrators, students, and other stakeholders.
Diversity of representation
Such membership shall include representation from rural and urban local educational agencies, small and large schools, high- and low-resource schools, teachers of students with disabilities, and schools in communities from diverse linguistic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.
A State educational agency that creates a media literacy advisory council under subparagraph (A)(i) shall, only after consideration of the findings and recommendations described in subclauses (I) and (VI) of that subparagraph, develop and publish on the State educational agency website inclusive digital citizenship and media literacy guidelines for students in kindergarten through grade 12 in public schools in the State.
The guidelines described in clause (i) shall be designed to develop media literacy and digital citizenship competencies by promoting students’—
research and information fluency;
critical thinking and problem-solving skills;
technology operations and concepts;
information and technological literacy;
concepts of media representation and stereotyping;
understanding of explicit and implicit media messages;
understanding of values and points of view that are included and excluded in media content;
understanding of how media may influence ideas and behaviors;
understanding of the importance of obtaining information from multiple media sources and evaluating sources for quality;
understanding how information on digital platforms can be altered through algorithms, editing, and augmented reality; and
ability to create media in civically and socially responsible ways.
Local educational agencies
An eligible entity that is a local educational agency receiving a grant under this section shall use grant funds to carry out one or more of the following activities:
Incorporating digital citizenship and media literacy into the existing curriculum (across content and disciplinary areas) or establishing new educational opportunities to learn about media literacy.
Employing specialized instructional support personnel, such as a librarian or other personnel who can provide instructional services in media literacy.
Providing funding to educators who are carrying out activities described in subparagraph (A) to further their professional development in relation to media literacy, including funding for traveling to media literacy conferences to share knowledge with regional and national stakeholders.
Other activities, including student led efforts, to support, develop, or promote the implementation of media literacy education programs, policies, teacher preparation, curriculum, or standards.
An eligible entity that is a public library receiving a grant under this section shall use grant funds to carry out activities that enhance digital citizenship and media literacy skills in children.
Qualified nonprofit organizations
An eligible entity that is a qualified nonprofit organization receiving a grant under this section shall use grant funds to carry out one or more of the following activities:
Activities in schools or public settings for children in kindergarten through grade 12 that enhance digital citizenship and media literacy skills.
Other activities to support, develop, or promote the implementation of media literacy education programs, policies, teacher preparation, curriculum, or standards relating to enhancing digital citizenship and media literacy skills for children in kindergarten through grade 12.
If a qualified nonprofit organization charges a school or other entity for carrying out activities described in subparagraph (A), the organization may not charge more than the cost to the organization of carrying out the activities.
Reports by eligible entities
Not later than 1 year after the date on which an eligible entity receives grant funds under this section, the eligible entity shall prepare and submit to the Assistant Secretary a report describing the activities the eligible entity carried out using grant funds and the effectiveness of those activities.
Report by the Assistant Secretary
Not later than 90 days after the Assistant Secretary receives the report described in paragraph (1) from the last eligible entity to submit such a report, the Assistant Secretary shall prepare and submit a report to Congress describing the activities carried out under this section and the effectiveness of those activities.
Sense of Congress
It is the sense of Congress that the Assistant Secretary should—
establish and maintain a list of—
eligible entities that receive a grant under section 4; and
individuals designated by those eligible entities as participating individuals, such as individuals serving on a media literacy advisory council described in section 4(c)(1)(A)(i) or individuals carrying out activities authorized under section 4(c) on behalf of those eligible entities; and
make the list described in paragraph (1) available to those eligible entities and participating individuals in order to promote communication and further exchange of information regarding sound digital citizenship and media literacy practices among recipients of a grant under section 4.
Authorization of appropriations
There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act $20,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030.