18-29 year olds are not responsible for the proliferation of "fake news"


A new study by the New York and Princeton Universities indicates that sharing fake news is not done by young people, but rather by users over 65 on the net.

The fake news. This American expression dear to the President of the United States Donald Trump has become the biggest Internet problem in recent years: how to fight the proliferation of false information in such a free system?
The heated public debate on this issue tends to turn into an indictment. The old people accuse young people of being casual and not paying attention to the world around them, when young people accuse old people of not understanding anything in the modern world.
A new study on "fake news"
The last ones may not be completely wrong. A new study by the New York and Princeton Universities, published in Science Advances and reported by The Verge, actually goes in that direction. It was conducted with a panel of 3,500 people using or not Facebook. After the elections, they were asked to install a Facebook application giving researchers a lot of data, including their public profiles, their religious and political tendencies, the posts made on their social networks and the pages they followed.
49% of the panel members agreed to play the game and provide this data. The researchers then checked the links posted using a database of sites creating false information.
Over 65s are more sensitive to fake news
In this panel, few people have fallen into the trap of false information. Only 8.5% of respondents were caught sharing at least one link from a site spreading them. This being so, the "Republicans" (on the right, roughly following the French political logic) are better able to share them than the "Democrats" (on the left according to the same logic): 18% versus 4%. These results are, according to the study, influenced by Donald Trump's campaign.
The biggest find is the age of the participants. 11% of people over the age of 65 shared a fake news, compared to only 3% of people between 18 and 29 years old. Facebook users over the age of 65 have even shared more than twice as much false information as the 45-65 age group, and almost 7 times more than the youngest group (18-29).
The most interesting thing about all this is that this age data is not related to the political inclination. Thus, both Republicans and Democrats over the age of 65 have the same potential to share false information.
Two theories for that
The study is careful not to draw a conclusion on its results. This being the case, two theories are launched by the researchers to explain this fact.
The first is that by its age, this generation simply lacks competence to handle the computer tool and its various traps compared to the younger generations born with the tool. And second, the decline in cognitive abilities natural to the human brain with age could be related.
Still, this study places the emphasis on age rather than political inclinations in this stormy debate. At a time when platforms like Facebook are committed to fighting the proliferation of "fake news", its results could be used to create new ways to fight misinformation.

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