Colorado legislators have proposed two new bills to address what they call “misinformation,” “conspiracy theories,” and “fake news” in the media and on social media.
The first, HB21-1103, Media Literacy Implementation, requires the state’s Department of Education to create a resource bank of materials related to media literacy; provide schools and districts with policies and procedures related to media literacy; and “implement media literacy within reading, writing, and civics standards.”
The second, SB21-132, Digital Communications Regulation, creates the Digital Communications Division and Commission within the state’s Department Of Regulatory Agencies. The division would register social media or media-sharing platforms that operate in Colorado or offer services to Coloradans.
The newly created division could investigate, and the commission hold hearings, on “unfair and discriminatory digital communications practices such as practices that promote hate speech; undermine election integrity; disseminate intentional disinformation, conspiracy theories, or fake news; or authorize, encourage, or carry out violations of users’ privacy.”
The education bill, HB21-1103 says, “Freedom of speech is a right that must not be infringed. In order to protect and reinforce this important right, the functioning of our democracy requires that Coloradans possess the ability to understand context and think critically about the information they are presented.”
Indeed. Citizens should be able to speak freely and “understand context and think critically” – including having those skills and the freedom to decide for themselves what these bills actually do.
The media literacy bill goes on to state, “The growth of social media platforms and their integration into the media diet of Coloradans has created an opportunity for the rapid and widespread dissemination of misinformation” and says that “the increase of misinformation has created significant divisions in our society.”
The state standards and curriculum would equip “the youth of Colorado with the critical thinking skills necessary to analyze the information, claims, and sources presented to them through media.”
Vice President of Strategy for Family Policy Alliance Autumn Leva questioned whether state-run schools should be deciding what in the news is “misinformation” and whether it’s “misinformation” that causes divisions in society – or real disagreements on important issues.
Leva told The Daily Citizen, “HB21-1103 empowers Colorado schools to indoctrinate children with how to analyze the media they see or hear – from the government’s preferred viewpoint.”
“Of course we want children to be able to analyze what they’re hearing from the media,” she continued, “discerning truth from lies or assessing how what they’re hearing lines up with their worldview. But this bill is simply a vehicle for schools to teach students how to analyze media from the government’s worldview. Government is, by definition, political, so Colorado parents should be concerned about political indoctrination in schools if this bill passes.”
The commission established by SB21-132 would be empowered to hold hearings; subpoena witnesses and compel their attendance; hear testimony under oath; and compel respondents to produce materials “relating to any matter that is the subject of the complaint against the respondent.”
The commission would then “issue publications and reports of investigations and research that in the commission’s judgment will educate the public on, and provide recommendations on how to minimize adverse effects arising from, the use of digital communications platforms” [sic].
In addition to investigating content on social media, SB21-132 would regulate social media company practices, such as the collection and dissemination of users’ personal data; profiling of users, using facial recognition software and tracking technology, and selling users’ personal data to provide targeted advertising.
Leva told The Daily Citizen that the legislation would involve the government directly censoring speech – beyond what we’ve already seen from big tech companies.
“Censoring on social media platforms already seems to be at an all-time high. This hit home in a major way when Twitter censored a Focus on the Family account simply for identifying a President Biden cabinet nominee correctly as a person who was born biologically male and now identifies as female.”
“But SB21-132 would take censoring to a new level,” she said. “The bill would give not just private entities like Twitter the ability to censor their own users, but it would hand Colorado politicians the gavel to judge when social media platforms allow Colorado residents to say things the government disagrees with. In other words, the bill is proposing taxpayer funded censoring.”
HB21-1103, Media Literacy Implementation, recently passed the House Committee on Education and was sent on to a vote in the House. SB21-132, Digital Communications Regulation, was introduced into the Senate and assigned to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
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