NY Plans to Teach Students to Spot ‘Conspiracy Theories’, ‘Misinformation’: Governor

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
November 22, 2023New York

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that the state is planning to develop “media literacy tools” to teach K-12 students how to identify “conspiracy theories” and “misinformation” in the media and online.

The plan is part of the Democrat governor’s new initiative to combat what she called the “ongoing rise in online hate speech” by investing an additional $3 million to expand the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Services Division.

The extra funding will allow the Division to conduct “threat assessment and management (TAM)” training in colleges and universities across the state, according to Ms. Hochul. School administrators and professors will be taught to recognize “credible” threats for harm online and create “management plans” for those “on the pathway to violence.”

“They work to track and stop violent acts of hate before they happen,” Ms. Hochul said of the TAM teams at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’m announcing $3 million in additional investment to ensure that every single college campus now has these in the State of New York.”

“They’re not here to penalize anyone for their political views,” she claimed. “They have a simple goal to find out what’s driving hateful behavior and intervene early before harm is done.”

In addition to that, the governor said she would order the Division to “develop and distribute” a media literacy toolkit for K-12 public schools.

“This will teach students, and even teachers, to help understand how to spot conspiracy theories and misinformation, disinformation, and online hate,” she told the reporters. A press release from her office describes the toolkit as “age-appropriate,” “ideologically neutral,” and that it will “encourage critical thinking.”

For parents of college students, the state will also create for them an “informational guide” to “help start conversations around the destructive impacts of hate and hate speech” at the dinner table with their children returning home for winter break.

“If you’re a parent who’s worried about the path your child is on, you’re seeing things, you’re hearing things, you’re anxious,” said Ms. Hochul. “There are opportunities for you as well.”

Hochul Blames TikTok for Spread of Hate Speech

Citing reports of a dramatic increase in online hate speech against “Jewish, Muslim, and Arab people” since the war broke out in the Middle East last month, Ms. Hochul said her state is caught in a “crisis” of hostility fueled by social media platforms that are acting slow in addressing the issue.

“So much of this hate originates on social media platforms like TikTok, who refuse to take action necessary to protect our children and young people,” she said Tuesday.

To illustrate her point, Ms. Hochul cited widely shared videos featuring a letter written by Osama bin Laden, the slain leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, who claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans.

In his 2002 “Letter to America,” the notorious terrorist specifically made references to the United States’ longstanding support of Israel, which drew praise from TikTok users who take an anti-Israel stance in the ongoing war—with some of them saying that bin Laden’s comment “was right.” In one video with about 1 million views, a TikTok user claimed that “everything we learned about the Middle East, 9/11, and ‘terrorism’ was a lie.”

“It was shocking to see young people extolling the virtues of a terrorist kingpin,” said Ms. Hochul. “That only proves the power that social media has over our young people. And therefore, they have a responsibility.”

The governor said she has sent a letter to TikTok, demanding “better oversight,” “larger moderation teams,” and “greater transparency.” Similar letters have also been sent to X, Meta, and YouTube.

NY Police Strengths Social Media ‘Surveillance Efforts’

Tuesday’s announcement comes after the Hochul administration unveiled a $75 million plan to tackle the rise in “hate crimes” related to the Israel-Hamas war.

As part of the plan, State Police officers who have been “embedded with local law enforcement” will expand their efforts in monitoring “what’s being said on social media platforms,” the governor said last week.

“We’re very focused on the data we’re collecting from surveillance effort,” Ms. Hochul explained, noting that this program was established last year in the wake of a racist shooting at a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo. “We have launched an effort to be able to counter some of the negativity and reach out to people when we see hate speech being spoken about on online platforms.”

“Our social media analysis unit has ramped up its monitoring of sites to catch incitement to violence, direct threats to others,” she continued, claiming that this is necessary for her administration to fulfill its commitment to making “New Yorkers feel safe.”

New Yorkers, meanwhile, are encouraged to report “hate and bias incidences of all kinds” via a hotline established by the state.

“I want everyone to know this phone number,” the Democrat governor said, adding that she has directed law enforcement to run down and investigate “every single complaint.” She also promised prosecutions for those who have “crossed the line from hate speech into a hate crime.”

From The Epoch Times

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