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New York To Train Students How to 'Spot Conspiracy Theories' Online

Governor Kathy Hochul says she hopes to ‘inoculate’ students from hatred by teaching them the difference between ‘digital fact and digital fiction’

New York To Train Students How to 'Spot Conspiracy Theories' Online

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York announced an expansion of government-run training designed to prevent online radicalization.

Hochul will give an additional $3 million to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Domestic Terrorism Prevention Unit to expand its Threat Assessment and Management (TAM) training programs. The programs are offered at New York colleges and universities.

“The rising tide of hate is putting all New Yorkers at risk and, as Governor, I'm committed to tackling this crisis head-on,” said Hochul at a press conference on Nov. 21. “We're deploying physical security resources, expanding our Threat Management and Assessment teams, calling for stronger action from social media companies, and encouraging families and communities to come together to fight hate. New York has always been a beacon of hope, tolerance and inclusivity, and we will be defined by how we come together to condemn hate in all forms."

“Today I'm directing the Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to develop media literacy tools for K-12 in our public schools,” said the governor. “This will teach students, and even teachers, to help understand how to spot conspiracy theories and misinformation, disinformation, and online hate. Start talking about what we're seeing out there. Give the teachers the tools they need to help these conversations in school.”

“And by teaching younger New Yorkers about how to discern between digital fact and digital fiction, we can better inoculate them from hatred and the spread of it and help prepare them for a very fast moving and often confusing world,” she added. 

Hochul urged parents to teach their children “the difference between disagreeing on a policy that a government may take and displaying hate toward an entire group of innocent people.”

The programs will be operated by TAM teams comprised of “multidisciplinary” professionals that will asses risk and “create management plans for individuals on the pathway to violence,” according to the governor’s office. The team members are tasked with taking note of any behaviors deemed to be concerning, creating a reporting system used by schools, and training teachers and staff to “identify concerning behaviors early.”

In a letter to executives at Google, X, TikTok, and Meta, Hochul expressed serious concern about increasing antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab content being shared by social media users. 

“Too often, your platforms are breeding grounds for hateful content. That has been on particularly disturbing display in recent weeks,” she wrote. 

The letter comes one week after the governor unveiled more robust statewide efforts to monitor online activity in an attempt to prevent the spread of hate. 

“As Governor, I'll continue to remind us of our shared values so going forward, we'll be defined by how we come together to condemn, with one voice, the evils of antisemitism and Islamophobia, which are so rampant today,” Hochul told the press. “As always, the nation, and indeed the world, are watching, waiting for New York to lead.”

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