Introduction and Table of Media Literacy ActivitiesDefining Critical Media Literacy1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemDemocracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsThe Internet as a Public Utility21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsMedia Coverage of the RoyalsRepresentations of Native Americans on Film and in Local History Publications2. The Development of United States GovernmentPromoting a Declaration of Independence on Social MediaMarketing and Regulating Self-Driving CarsRepresentations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaPolitical Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTweeting the Bill of Rights3. Institutions of United States GovernmentHollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentWriting an Impeachment Press ReleaseHow Members of Congress Use Social MediaPolitical Impacts of Public Opinion PollsDesigning a Website for a New Political Party4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensImmigration in the NewsPortrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmEvaluating Information About COVID-19Women Political Leaders in the MediaMedia Use by Advocacy Organizations and Special Interest GroupsDigital Games for Civic EngagementSocial Media and the ElectionsMedia Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesCelebrities' Influence on PoliticsPolitical Activism Through Social MediaRecruiting Workers for Public Sector JobsImages of Teachers and TeachingTransgender Representation in the MediaMedia Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Music as Protest ArtPACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media5. The Constitution, Amendments and Supreme Court DecisionsMedia For and Against ProhibitionThe Equal Rights Amendment on Social MediaNews Stories and Advertisements from the Civil WarRepresentations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTweeting For and Against the Equality ActReading Supreme Court Dissents AloudDebating Cameras in the Courtroom6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentNative American Mascots and LogosWriting a Constitution for the InternetMilitary Recruitment and the MediaYour Privacy on Social MediaState Government Use of Media During the COVID-19 PandemicGendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsEnvironmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTrusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicCampaigning for Political Office on Social MediaAdvertising the Lottery Online and In PrintLocal Government and Social Media7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyPress Freedom in the United States and the WorldThe News from All SidesInvestigative Journalism and Social ChangeNews Photographs & Newspaper DesignUncovering Reporters' PerspectivesRecommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsDetecting Fake NewsConducting Critical Visual AnalysisMemes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media

Special Interest Groups, Political Action Committees (PACs), and Labor Unions are constantly engaging in political advocacy through advertising. They devote enormous amounts of time and resources to persuading voters and citizens to support their positions on issues and candidates. 

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In the past, these organizations relied mainly on newspapers, direct mail, and television advertising to influence voters and citizens.

However, when running for President in 2008, Barack Obama's campaign changed the political advertising landscape by using social media posts and online ads to reach voters. Since then, the amount of money spent on online ads has gone from the millions to the billions and continues to grow with every election cycle on Facebook and Google and other online platforms. Many of these ads are carefully designed to microtarget specific groups with specific messages.

Paradoxically, as the American Bar Association has pointed out, “lying in political ads is also perfectly legal” because what is said is considered political speech and that is protected under the First Amendment (Political Advertising on Social Media, June 26, 2020). As a consequence, misinformation and disinformation keeps reappearing during and after elections, including in 2021 with the "Big Lie" that the 2020 Election was stolen from the former President.

In these activities, you will examine the relationship between PACs and labor unions and the media and consider how these organizations' use of and inclusion in the media influences voters and shapes democracy.

Activity 1: Evaluate Political Action Committee (PAC) Advertisements

Activity 2: Investigate the Portrayal of Unions in the News 

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Examine the influence of public and private interest groups in a democracy, including policy organizations in shaping debate about public policy. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T4.13]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Digital Citizen
      • 2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
      • 3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Ethics and Laws (CAS.b)
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8