A study of American Facebook users has found that older Americans are more likely to share fake news on the social network than its younger users. The study was conducted by researchers at Princeton University and New York University and published in Science Advances on Wednesday.
According to the study of around 1,750 American adults, American Facebook users over the age of 65 shared almost seven times as many fake news articles on the platform. So does this mean your grandma just happens to be a mean-spirited troll? Hardly. The researchers say the reason for boomers sharing fake news in greater quantity could come down to a lack of digital literacy skills in older generations:
It is possible that an entire cohort of Americans, now in their 60s and beyond, lacks the level of digital media literacy necessary to reliably determine the trustworthiness of news encountered online.
However, the researchers also give another possible reason–one to do with aging itself. “A second possibility, drawn from cognitive and social psychology, suggests a general effect of aging on memory,” the researchers note. “Under this account, memory deteriorates with age in a way that particularly undermines resistance to ‘illusions of truth.'”
Other findings from the study:
- Over 90% of people actually do not share fake news.
- But of those that do, conservatives were more likely to share fake news than liberals or moderates.
- And overall more Republicans shared fake news than Democrats.