Briggs introduces bill to combat fake news, improve media literacy

HARRISBURG, Feb. 27 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, introduced H.B. 661 today, which would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a media literacy curriculum for Pennsylvania’s students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12, in an effort to combat the rise of fake news on social media during the 2016 General Election.


“This legislation would prepare Pennsylvania’s students with the critical thinking skills and knowledge to evaluate the accuracy of news stories on social media and other sources for themselves,” Briggs said. “During this past election cycle, it’s undeniable that we saw a rise in fake news on social media that put misinformation out into the public sphere for the purpose of misleading voters.”


If passed, H.B. 661 would require the Department of Education, in consultation with the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, to develop a media literacy curriculum within 6 months of the bill’s effective date. According to the bill, the curriculum may include, but is not limited to: developing critical thinking skills; understanding how media messages shape culture and society; identifying targeted marketing strategies; naming techniques of persuasion; recognizing bias and misinformation; discovering parts of a story that are not being told; evaluating media messages based on personal experiences and skills.


“It is imperative the next generation of voters are able to ground their opinions in fact,” Briggs said. “The goal of this legislation is to help Pennsylvania’s students recognize fact from fiction, and avoid being misled on very serious issues.”


Other states have introduced similar legislation and colleges have begun developing courses on the subject. Briggs’ bill would require the Department of Education to establish the new curriculum during the school year following its implementation. The curriculum would be made publicly available by the State Board of Education.


H.B. 661 would also require the Department of Education to create a list of resources and materials on media literacy for school districts and ensure approved media literacy training opportunities are available for use in professional development programs for teachers.