In recent years, disinformation and propaganda have invaded social media, creating confusion and division. That’s why Republican MP Jill Tolles is introducing a measure to promote information literacy in public schools. KUNR’s Paul Boger spoke to Tolles to find out more about his bill.
Paul Boger: Madam MP, you are about to introduce a measure which would seek to create an information literacy requirement in public schools. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about this measure and what this particular legislation would seek to accomplish?
Jill Tolles: We have civics all through social studies, but especially in high school we’re talking about subject skills. These disciplinary skills are really critical thinking skills. These are the skills [to] learn to investigate, not only the allegations, but the evidence behind them [and] how to ask the right questions to understand what type of action should be taken as a result of the information you receive.
So that got me thinking, just as I have watched events over the last year, we all have a challenge with so much information these days. Sometimes it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish what is factual information, what is an opinion, what is an inference and whether or not there is a bias in the information we receive. So, I think part of the part of preparing our students to step into the world to be good engaged citizens is to make sure they have the skills to be able to discern whether this information is valid or not and whether or not they should use this information to base their decisions.
Boger: Where did the idea for this legislation come from?
Tolles: It was during the summer that we had the various protests that led to riots in downtown Reno, and I certainly felt like it was very close to our home. I will give a very specific example. I saw an alert there that said it was from Antifa and they were leaving downtown and entering people’s neighborhoods and suburbs. So I contacted one of my contacts at the FBI and said, “Hey, did you see that? He came back to me a few days later and said, “Remember that alert you saw that was supposed to be from Antifa?” It was actually from a white nationalist group that had funding from outside the country. So I really started to look at all this use of disinformation and how it’s strategically targeted to get us further into our own camps, if you will, and to make us more hate and distrust of each other. others and react in a truly detrimental way. to our democracy.
Boger: There was also a great deal of misinformation during last year’s election that ended with the deadly violence that was seen on January 6 on the United States Capitol. Did these events play a role in the creation of this bill?
Tolles: You’re right, there has been a lot of misinformation that has been shared around the elections, and for lawmakers or ordinary citizens to be able to distinguish myths from realities, or even to know how to ask the right questions to understand how the election works. process, [like] who is responsible for certifying elections? What is the process by which we proceed? Just be more educated so that we can do a better job of asking the right questions when they arise, and if there are any issues, then let’s fix them. But if there is information that is being shared only for the purpose of creating more doubt and mistrust, or in some way influencing us for biased gain, then we need to understand that and throw it away. a glance.
Boger: Along the same lines, there is a lot of mistrust between the two political parties at this point. Do you think legislation like this will help bridge this gap?
Tolles: It’s easier said than done. Once you’ve broken trust, it takes a long time to rebuild it, especially when people think information from certain sources is automatically untrustworthy. How to rebuild these skills to regain their confidence? I think this is the reason why you see a lot of bills, in particular you mentioned the electoral process. I think that’s why you see so many bills just to be able to shed light on the processes. I think through transparency and some changes in the process, it can help restore that trust and help ordinary citizens see for themselves how things work.