Of the many quandaries that Facebook faces, the most abominable are Fake news and the menace it spreads! Not to forget the whole mess around U.S Presidential elections with the chance of misleading information to be a possible influence. Again, the aftermath of the same has been a major concern and yes, far-fetched. That being said, the “who” factor remains constant – The source of propagation of such fake news! Apparently, a recent study by the Journal Science Advances seems to predict relatively closer demographic section – Baby Boomers!
In consonance with a study report released by Science Advances, the elderly and ultra-conservative section of the society are most susceptible to fake news and, are four times more likely to spread the same without a second thought.
The study was conducted by the collaborative efforts of researchers from New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab, along with Princeton University.
According to the above-mentioned study that was released on Wednesday, people aged 65 and above, amount to nearly 11% and have shared false information during the 2016 presidential election. This stat stands against 3% of the people between 18 to 29 years of age. Considering the middle-aged spectrum ranging from 45 to 60, also fall prey to such fake links passing off as news.
Not Tech-Savvy Enough!
For me, what is pretty striking is that the relationship holds even when you control for party affiliation or ideology. The fact that it’s independent of these other traits is pretty surprising to me. It’s not just being driven by older people being more conservative. – Andrew Guess, a political scientist at Princeton University.
Apparently, the elderly citizens aren’t that tech savvy to properly distinguish between genuine news and fake news masquerading as genuine links!
The average number of shares on fake news is 0.26 for people between the age of 45 to 60. However, when compared with the average number of shares for people over 65, it was found to 0.75.
According to Jonathan Nagler, who is a professor of politics and co-director of NYU’s SMaPP Lab, claims that the inadequate information circulating around digital and media resources have contributed more towards the spread of such fake news among older people. He adds that younger generation today who joins the digital parade with required digital literacy, “may just be savvier at identifying what may be fake.”
Nagler also indicates at the “overwhelming evidence” around the fakest news being biased towards the then-candidate Donald Trump, making the ultra-conservative sect more likely to spread fake news, as opposed to liberals. According to him, the whole brouhaha around fake news during the election was just due to the widespread attention fake news has garnered in, leading to the falsities gaining more attention than the real news stories. One should jot down in their most important logs, that passing-off as real news, the fake news was circulated more!
Understood well that these fake news are potentially harmful to the democracy, one may even try to look out why exactly this false news appeals to certain people, leading them to share falsities.
The “Why” Around Older People Sharing Hoaxes!
The study examines user behaviour along the array of months before and after the 2016 U.S Presidential election. In early 2016, the researchers collaborated with another firm YouGov to garner in 3,500 respondents including both Facebook users and non-users. Amalgamating the results, one thing pretty evident is that elderly sect is most susceptible to fake news, but why?
Although the researchers couldn’t clearly conclude the big “why”, but have instead reached at two possible theories. The first being the plausible reason, that older people who were introduced to the internet later, lack the digital literacy as opposed to the younger generation. The second is that older people have a relatively lower grasp at their cognition and introspection levels making them more susceptible to fall for hoaxes. One may air-quote this while reading, user’s willingness to share hoaxes have already been trialled for the vast digital literacy gap!
However, on a brighter note, there have been genuine efforts to bridge this gap by conscious and multi-pronged resolutions. Apparently, elderly Americans have a whole page devoted for their digital awareness, initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. True enough, one should effectively try to reduce the spread of falsities rather than approaching variable ones!