The phrase fake news was relatively unheard of a few years ago. However, its notoriety has now seen it earn a spot in the dictionary, and it is regularly referred to by the President of the United States.
It is undeniable that much of the rise in so-called fake news is down to social media. This of course is the most popular platform where this type of content can be readily shared. But which demographic is most likely to do so?
Over 65s more likely to share fake news
Researchers say that Americans aged over 65 are more likely to share fake news on Facebook than young people. A new study, which has gone viral in the last week, looked at the behavior of Facebook users before and after the last US presidential election.
— 𝙱𝚎𝚝𝚑 💕 (@BeeEssBee) January 10, 2019
Who shares fake news? New study finds Facebook users who are conservative and old were much more likely to share fake news. Users over 65 were 7 times more likely to share fake news than youngest group (18-29) https://t.co/9Wx5MNPErz pic.twitter.com/U7SmcqmgB2
— André Spicer (@andre_spicer) January 10, 2019
Interestingly it claimed that only 8.5% of people shared stories generated by fake news sites. Nonetheless age was found to be significant in working out which type of people were re-posting links to dubious articles the most.
What else did the fake news study tell us?
Thanks to the report, which studied 3,500 people who were recruited prior to the 2016 election, we can take away a number of interesting points. Around half of study’s candidates installed an app that gathered information from their Facebook, logging what they shared.
This allowed researchers to find that more than 11% of people aged 65 (or over) shared links to fake news. Meanwhile just 3% if 18-29-year-olds shared similar links.
The study also suggested that Democrats (3.5%) were less likely to share this type of content than pro-Trump republicans (18%).
In a report published in The Washington Post the study’s authors summed up their findings. They wrote: “No other demographic characteristic we examined – gender, income, education – had any consistent relationship with the likelihood of sharing fake news.”
What were the conclusions of the fake news study?
The study’s authors did not make any direct conclusions about why older people were likely to share fake news. Nonetheless a few ideas were mentioned. Age-related cognitive decline, making OAPs easier to fool, was suggested, as well as digital illiteracy.
Of course, when you think about it, the number of links shared wasn’t actually that big. Yet, as the BBC report, the researchers believe they could still ‘have a significant impact’. This is because it’s almost certain that more people read the fake news than passed it on.
As a footnote to the finding that over 65s are more likely to share fake news on Facebook, our DNR data shows that just 18% know that Facebook uses algorithmic news selection (compared to 32% of 18-24s). About a third think Facebook news selection is done by journalists. pic.twitter.com/gMe04pRbIw
— Richard Fletcher (@dragz) January 11, 2019
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