Americans over 65 share the most fake news, study says

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Maybe it’s time to log off.

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The only people left on Facebook are the people who are worst at using it.

A new study from Princeton and New York University delves into how much people share fake news online, and who’s doing the sharing. It largely confirms what some previous studies have indicated, and what you might have already suspected: the people who share the most fake news are your grandparents.

More specifically, the largest determinant to sharing a fake news article was being over the age of 65 — regardless of political orientation. 

“No other demographic characteristic seems to have a consistent effect on sharing fake news, making our age finding that much more notable,” the study reads.

For the overall set, the other determinant outside of age was being a conservative Trump supporter. But this finding was not as significant as age group.

Researchers surveyed a representative sample of 3,500 US adults, then matched those respondents with their Facebook profiles. From there, they determined whether they had shared a fake news article, from a list compiled by a BuzzFeed reporter. 

The findings were more optimistic than one might assume. In fact, the study is called “Less than you think: Prevalence and predictors of fake news dissemination on Facebook.” Ninety percent of people who shared links did not share a single fake news article.

“Sharing of stories from fake news domains is a much rarer event than sharing links overall,” the study reads.

Its findings back up an initial report from one of the same researchers, Andrew Guess of Princeton University. That January 2018 study of 2,525 Americans also found that people over 60 were the most likely age group to share fake news, as well as people who leaned conservative.

Of course, the study was only able to look at what people shared on their Facebook pages. That means we don’t know how much or who shared fake news in Facebook Messenger, let alone in other apps where people are increasingly getting news, such as WhatsApp.

But with Facebook’s status as the political locus for the spread of misinformation online, this study may temper some of the blame. That, or a small amount of people sharing a small amount of articles, is much more powerful than it appears.

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