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Old people 'seven times more likely to share fake news online'

Fake news was a hot topic during the last US election (PA)

Older people are nearly four times as likely to share fake news online than their younger counterparts, new research has revealed.

According to a study by Science journal, over 65s shared nearly seven times more articles from fake news domains during the 2016 US presidential campaign than 18-29-year-olds.

Researchers from NYU and Princeton analysed the Facebook accounts of around 1,750 Americans to see how many articles were shared from fake news domains.

They concluded that sharing fake news was rare, with only 8.5 per cent of people linking to such stories.

The majority – 18 per cent – of fake news shared was by republican voters, compared with the less than 4 per cent shared by democrats. However, it was noted that most of the fake news circulating at this time was pro-Trump.

The journal’s authors said that their “most robust finding” was that Americans aged over 65 were more likely to share fake news with their Facebook friends.

“This is true even when holding other characteristics — including education, ideology, and partisanship—constant,” they said.

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

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The affects of ageing on memory among the older demographic was given as one possible explanation, as well as lower levels of digital literacy.

The authors added: “As the largest generation in America enters retirement at a time of sweeping demographic and technological change, 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.

“Within this cohort, lower levels of digital literacy could be compounded by the tendency to use social endorsements as credibility cues. If true, this would imply a growing impact, as more Americans from older age groups join online social communities.”

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