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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

How HBJ Wants to Help Kids Spot Fake News

On Wednesday (April 18 aka "tomorrow," at press time) Santa Barbara's League of Women Voters is sponsoring a community forum titled "Fake News: Can Democracy Survive?"

The free event is scheduled from noon-2 p.m. at the Faulkner Gallery at the Public Library and will present a discussion and questions from the public about the urgent and consequential issue of Fake News.

The practice has debased political discourse and the culture concurrently with the presidency of Donald Trump. The discussion panel includes: Lisa Neubert, Programming Librarian at Santa Barbara Library; Marga Cooley, Santa Maria Times Editor; Miriam Medzger, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Information, Technology and Society at UCSB, and your Newsmakers Editor.

Warming up for affair, Newsmakers presents a Q&A, conducted via the miracle of email with our Honorable (all rise) state Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, who is working in Sacramento to pass SB 947, innovative legislation that seeks to address the corrupting influence of Fake News by taking the first step to offer instruction to public school students in the subject of Media Literacy.

Q: What is Senate Bill 947 and why are you sponsoring it?

A: SB 947 establishes an advisory committee of educators, administrators, researchers and parents who will collaborate with the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop best practices, resources and models for teaching digital citizenship and media literacy in our schools.

I authored this bill because I am increasingly concerned about the proliferation of fake news, cyber bullying, and dangerous behavior online. As the role of media and technology in our lives continues to grow, it is imperative that we teach our kids the skills they need to critically assess what they read, separate fact from fiction, and stay safe online.

Q: What do you see as the threats of "Fake News"?

A: You may have heard about MIT’s recent study, which found fake news spreads faster and reaches more people than true stories online.

In fact, the report found that false stories were 70 percent more likely to be shared on Twitter. We are just now starting to understand the consequences of such widespread dissemination of false information. We know that Russian trolls used fake news to instigate conflict, sow discord, and further divide Americans in the 2016 election and they continue to do so today.

The threats of “fake news” are clear. Fake news not only spreads dangerous conspiracy theories that further polarize and divide us, it also undermines legitimate investigative journalism that serves as a check on government and keeps Americans informed.

Q: How important do you perceive media literacy to be to students?

Today’s students have more access to media, the internet, and mobile technologies at home and in school than any other previous generation. While media and technology hold great promise for enhancing how our children learn, young people need support and education about how to make sound judgments when navigating their digital world. Today’s children must learn how to safely, ethically, and responsibly interact with one another, as well as learn how to effectively use media and technology resources at their disposal.

Q: How would the bill be implemented?

A: The Superintendent of Public Instruction would convene a series of meetings with educators, administrators, researchers and experts to begin developing best practices and recommendations for digital citizenship and media literacy. They would then present a final report of the findings to the Legislature.

Q: How much would it cost?

A: The Department of Education expects it to cost $89,000 to implement.

Q: Where does the bill stand now and what are its chances?

A: The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee. In late May, the Appropriations Committee will decide whether the bill will move to the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will go through the same process in the Assembly. I am confident SB 947 will pass the Legislature. We have received tremendous support from media literacy experts, administrators, and educators, and do not have any opposition on record.

See you Wednesday. Plenty of (not) Free Parking.

Images: Hannah Beth Jackson; Our 46 percent 45th president, with friend; logo of the League of Women Voters.

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