When you think about fake news, it might conjure up images of the 2016 US Presidential campaign. It was thought that during the campaign, conservatives were more likely to spread fake news than their liberal counterparts, however in a recent study conducted by researchers at the New York and Princeton Universities, this idea has been challenged. The new study of misinformation-sharing on social media has found a correlation between age and the sharing of suspect news stories.
The findings, which were published in Science Advances, indicate that the older the person is, the more likely they are to share such news stories. The results showed that people over the age of 65 shared almost seven times as many articles from fake news sites as those in the 18-29 age group.
The study also found that age was the best predictor when it came to fake news sharing on Facebook. Older people were more likely to interact with dubious news sites and had a higher tendency to share these articles. The study involved a panel of 3,500 people, with around 49% of those agreeing to share their profile data.
Fake News Sharing is Actually Rare
Despite the feeling that fake news is everywhere, and was especially prevalent during the 2016 campaign, the facts don’t match up. Researchers found that the vast majority of Facebook users didn’t share any fake news articles.
That isn’t to say that no-one shared any links. Of the total number of people who shared their data with researchers, only 3.4% shared 10 links or fewer. A greater number, 26.1% shared 10 to 100 links, while 61.3% shared 100 to 1000 links. This showed researchers that far from not sharing links at all, people were actively avoiding links from fake news sites.
Why Older People?
The researchers who studied these findings had some suggestions as to why older people were sharing more fake news. One theory is that older people have less digital-media literacy and aren’t able to spot news that might not be truthful. Another theory is that cognitive degeneration could be playing a part. As memory fades as you get older, so can the ability to resist the “illusions of truth”.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.