SACRAMENTO – Today the Senate passed AB 873 with bipartisan support, highlighting the urgency of young people’s growing reliance on the internet and social media to consume news. If signed, AB 873 would integrate media literacy instruction into the core subjects that all students learn from kindergarten through 12th grade in California.
“Children today are inundated by misinformation and disinformation on social media networks and digital platforms,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “As we've seen too often in the last decade, what happens online often has the most terrifying of real-world impacts. From climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories to the January 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol, the spread of online misinformation has had global and deadly consequences. We have a responsibility to teach the next generation to be more critical consumers of online content and more guarded against misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories. In addition, this instruction will help students to be more responsible digital citizens, more intentional about what they put online, and better understand online safety and privacy. Media literacy instruction is essential to keeping our students safer online and to safeguarding the future of our democracy.”
“GENup is proud of Assembly Bill 873's passage through the Senate. GENup, as a cosponsor of the legislation, views the incorporation of media literacy content into K-12 curriculum as important for preparing California's students to have the informational literacy skills needed to engage critically with online content. We want to thank all of our community partners for their support, and look forward to securing the Governor's signature on this bill." said Nicholas Harvey, K-12 Policy Director for Generation Up.
AB 873 directs the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to incorporate media literacy content into the English language arts/English language development, science, mathematics, and history-social science curriculum frameworks when those frameworks are next revised. Media literacy, also known as information literacy, develops students’ critical thinking skills around all types of media and teaches students to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities, and the world. It includes digital citizenship, which is a diverse set of skills related to current technology and social media, including the norms of appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior. Additionally, it includes teaching students how to create media thoughtfully and conscientiously. A growing number of states are now requiring that students receive instruction in media and information literacy, including New Jersey, Illinois, and Delaware.
A 2019 Stanford University study gauged students’ ability to evaluate digital sources on the open internet. 96 percent of high school students surveyed failed to consider that ties to the fossil fuel industry might affect the credibility of a website about climate change, while more than half believed a grainy video that claimed to show ballot stuffing (which was actually shot in Russia) constituted “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the United States. Another study found that 82 percent of middle school students struggled to distinguish advertisements from news stories. According to a 2022 report by the United Nations, 17% of public TikTok content related to the Holocaust either denied or distorted it. The same was true of almost 1 in 5 Holocaust-related Twitter posts and 49% of Holocaust content on Telegram. The report highlighted how much more remains to be done to strengthen global resilience to disinformation.
AB 873 is supported by the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Common Sense Media, the California News Publishers Association, and Media Literacy Now, among others. The bill now head to the Governor.