Over-65s most likely to share fake news on Facebook

Americans over the age of 65 were most likely to share so-called "fake news" during the 2016 presidential election, according to a new study.

Researchers have found that although only 8.5% of Americans shared fake news during the campaign, the behaviour was "disproportionately common among people over the age of 65".

The study by academics from Princeton University and New York University, is published in the journal Science Advances and also identifies strong partisan differences in the political opinions of those who were more likely to share fake news.

According to the research, 18% of Republicans shared links to fake news sites, compared to less than 4% of Democrats.

The researchers themselves cautioned against associating ideology with a tendency to being duped by fake news, however, noting that much of the fake news produced during the campaign was pro-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton.

Last February, the US Department of Justice filed charges against 13 employees of a Russian troll factory which is accused of attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by methods including spreading fake news on Facebook.

Although a declassified intelligence community assessment found that the Kremlin had interfered in the election to support Mr Trump, it also said that the interference did not have the effect of altering its outcome.

"Despite widespread interest in the fake news phenomenon, we know very little about who actually shares fake news," said Professor Joshua Tucker, a professor of politics at New York University.

"This study takes a first step towards answering this question. Perhaps most significantly, we find that sharing this type of content on Facebook was a relatively rare activity during the 2016 presidential campaign."

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According to the study, only 3% of users aged between 18 and 29 shared links from web domains associated with fake news, compared with 11% of users over the age 65.

Professor Jonathan Nagler of NYU said: "These findings suggest that teaching digital literacy in schools – no matter how beneficial that might be for other reasons – is unlikely to fully address the sharing of fake news if such sharing is more prevalent among older citizens."

Original Article

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