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Stalled Bill To Help California Schools Fight Fake News To Be Revived

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / File

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / File

Three bills aimed at fighting fake news stalled in the California Legislature this past year. At least one could resurface in the year ahead.

Democratic State Sen. Bill Dodd said he plans to revive his bill, SB 135, in January or introduce a similar one.

His legislation was aimed at helping K-12 students better evaluate the accuracy of digital information. It would have required the state to create new curriculum, though Dodd emphasized it would give schools the flexibility to craft courses as they see fit.

“It’s really about distinguishing advertisements from news stories. The basis of my bill was that Stanford study that found 82 percent of middle school students struggle to discern the difference,” Dodd told Capital Public Radio.

While some schools already promote online media literacy, Dodd said his proposal would ensure all schools can boost students’ “digital citizenship.”

“We’re certainly in the middle of the age of social media where social networks can spread fake news and misleading information at lightning speed,” Dodd added.

The lawmaker’s bill passed the Senate in May but was held up in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The legislation responded to the phenomenon of fake news or made-up articles that exploded during the 2016 election.

Tessa Jolls, president of the Malibu-based Center for Media Literacy, said California should follow the lead Washington state and Connecticut where similar legislation has been adopted.

“We really want people to become excellent risk managers when they use information in media,” Jolls said. “That applies to both representing yourself to other people and also being able to discern how others are representing themselves or products or issues to you as a citizen, as a consumer.”

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