Old people share more fake news on social media, a study finds

By Shaoor Munir on
January 10, 2019
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According to a new study by researchers at Princeton and New York Universities, older people, especially those who are above the age of 65, are more susceptible to fall for fake news being spread of social media.

The study, which was published in Science Advances, looked at the prevalence and sharing of fake news on social media, found out that people over the age of 65 were more susceptible to falling and re-sharing on fake news on social media. This trend is seen regardless of the difference in education, race, sex, and income of individuals, pointing towards a more cognitive and psychological reason behind this disparity than upbringing and cultural differences.

The researches examined the user behaviors before and after the 2016 presidential elections in the United States. A panel of 3,500 people was observed, both Facebook users and non-users. This panel was asked to share data related to their social media profiles, political and religious views. Their data was then compared with known domains which were used to spread fake news from five different sources.

The results were, to be honest, quite surprising. It’s a general perception that fake news is becoming more and more common, and although the intensity with which fake news spreads has certainly increased since Facebook became mainstream, the actual percentage of fake news being spread is still not significant enough to raise eyebrows.

Only 8.5 percent of the respondents in the study were found to be sharing at least one link which pointed towards a fake news source. When looked at political views, right-leaning (conservatives and Republicans) were twice more likely to share fake news as compared to left-leaning (liberal and democrats) respondents.

However, the most significant result was the correlation of age with spreading fake news. According to the study, older people, especially in the group of more than 65 years of age, were 2.3 times more likely to believe and spread fake news as compared to previous age groups. This remained more or less true despite differences in political ideology, race, income, and education level, pointing towards more susceptible behavior being displayed by baby boomers (the generation born between 1946 and 1964).

Fake news, despite the finding of study pointing towards an 8 percent prevalence rate, is a big issue for most social media sites and require an immediate and attentive response from all concerned authorities. Even though a small number of participants were involved in sharing fake news, we have seen how fake news can spread like wildfire, greatly increasing the effect of these small number of people indulging in the dissemination of fake and unverified news.

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