Study shows older people more likely to share fake news

Published January 11, 2019
Researchers from Princeton University and New York University analysed the Facebook posts of nearly 1,200 people who agreed to share their data in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election. ─
Researchers from Princeton University and New York University analysed the Facebook posts of nearly 1,200 people who agreed to share their data in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election. ─

WASHINGTON: Facebook users aged 65 plus and conservatives are more likely to share fake news on the platform than younger or more liberal counterparts, according to a new study.

Researchers from Princeton University and New York University analysed the Facebook posts of nearly 1,200 people who agreed to share their data in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election. They then compared links the respondents had shared on Facebook with several lists — including one compiled by BuzzFeed — of websites known to share false information.

The study, published in Science Advances, found less than only 8.5 per cent of respondents shared a link from one of these websites. However, those that did tended to be older and self-identified as being on the conservative end of the political spectrum. In fact, users over 65 — regardless of political affiliations — shared “nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains” as 18 to 29-year-olds, the youngest age group studied.

“No other demographic characteristic seems to have a consistent effect on sharing fake news,” the authors reported. “It is possible that an entire cohort of Americans, now in their 60s and beyond, lacks the level of digital media literacy necessary to reliably determine the trustworthiness of news encountered online,” they suggested.

The authors also suggested the impact of aging on memory could have an effect. “Under this account, memory deteriorates with age in a way that particularly undermines resistance to ‘illusions of truth’,” they wrote.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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