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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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US must take action against disinformation crisis

Jan 10

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Online misinformation and disinformation have been the subjects of fierce debates in recent years. As technologies continue to advance, many experts fear that the disinformation crisis will only worsen. In response, some governments and school districts are taking action to educate students and citizens about the markers and dangers of misinformation and disinformation.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence reviews some of the statistics behind those efforts and the consequences of failing to act. Lawrence recommends a bold nationwide implementation of successful state and local efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation.

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2024, I am excited to say that the legal world is looking up. That’s largely because of a number of laws that went into effect on January 1. And a number of them happen to be focused on an issue that gives me some sense of hope about the future of the US. And that issue is literacy.

Ensuring future generations and developing strategies to strengthen the basic tools to be productive citizens is imperative. In California, the new year brought us bill number 873 [which] now requires media literacy content be incorporated into science, history, social science, math, et cetera. And this legislation is a critical one, and it should be adopted across the nation.

Now it’s really given that the sweeping reach of misinformation and disinformation campaigns are on the rise. According to a 2023 Media Literacy Now study, while 38% of adults reported learning how to analyze media messaging in school, that means some 60% have no idea. And given all the right-wing pundits out there on Fox News and Infowars’ Alex Jones are pushing false narratives, it’s bringing immense harm to society.

Approximately a month ago, we heard testimony in federal court about how former Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s lies about the 2020 presidential election costs two Georgia election workers their livelihood, sanity, and also sense of security. From the Big Lie to climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories, many people just lacked the wherewithal to decipher between fact and fiction in media discourse, and the real-world harms derived from such shortcomings — they need to be thwarted.

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2024, I am excited to say that the legal world is looking up. That’s largely because of a number of laws that went into effect on January one. And a number of them happen to be focused on an issue that gives me some sense of hope about the future of the US. And that issue is literacy. Ensuring future generations and developing strategies to strengthen the basic tools to be productive citizens is imperative. In California, the new year brought us bill number 873 now requires media literacy content be incorporated into science, history, social science, math, etc. And this legislation is a critical one, and it should be adopted across the nation. Now it’s really given that the sweeping reach of misinformation and disinformation campaigns are on the rise. According to a 2023 media literacy now study, while 38% of adults reported learning how to analyze media messaging in school that mean some 60% have no idea. And given all the right-wing pundits out there on Fox News and Infowars is Alex Jones are pushing false narratives. It’s bringing immense harm to society. Approximately a month ago, we heard testimony in federal court about how former Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is lies about the 2020 presidential election costs to Georgia election workers their livelihood, sanity, and also sense of security. From the big lie to climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories, many people just lacked the wherewithal to decipher between fact and fiction in media discourse, and the real-world harms derived from such shortcomings they need to be rewarded. And now, as only three other states are having this media literacy instruction in schools, that’s Delaware, New Jersey and Texas, we really need more states to get on board. And the same goes for financial literacy, which is now a requirement for high schools in Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, West Virginia, knowing how to manage money budget invest, they’re all key to being self-sufficient. And this can help individuals avoid pitfalls in the future associated with poor spending decisions that lead to being burdened by those unsustainable debt obligations, financial fraud, bankruptcy and so much more. In a recent report, the New York Federal Reserve found that millennials are now over a trillion dollars in debt, a 22% increase from about the mid-1990s. Likewise, millennials are carrying a median debt of more than $140,000 each. That’s the highest median debt of any age cohort. That’s part of the 2023 survey of consumer finances by the way, altogether, the need for financial literacy is paramount. And these pushes to ensure America’s young people are better prepared to be successful citizens by way of enhanced literacy is of great import. And given that the last few years seem to be predicated on book bans and other efforts to curb knowledge among youth. Well, this literacy pivot appears to be a great way to start 2024 I definitely can get on board and I hope you will talk to your legislature and leaders out there and get them on board too.

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