Jan. 10 (UPI) — Age is the greatest determining factor in who shares fake news on Facebook, according to a Princeton University and New York University study released Wednesday.
The study, which examined the data of 1,331 respondents who shared fields from their public Facebook profile, including religious and political views; their own timeline posts, including external links and “likes” of pages found that people 65 years of age or older were seven times more likely to share false or misleading content intentionally disguised to look like news articles during the 2016 election than people between the ages of 18 and 29.
“Our most robust finding is that the oldest Americans, especially those over 65, were more likely to share fake news to their Facebook friends,” the authors of the study wrote. “This is true even when holding other characteristics — including education, ideology, and partisanship — constant.”
Researchers used lists of fake news sites compiled by a pair of journalists covering the phenomenon, but didn’t include Breitbart and other sites it considered “hyperpartisan” in the results.
Authors of the study noted no other demographic characteristic appeared to have a consistent effect on sharing fake news.
“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,” they added.
The study also found that people who identified as conservative were more likely to share fake news, which in 2016 were largely pro-Trump in orientation, than liberals or moderates.
“This is consistent with the pro-Trump slant of most fake news articles produced during the 2016 campaign, and of the tendency of respondents to share articles they agree with, and thus might not represent a greater tendency of conservatives to share fake news than liberals conditional on being exposed to it,” the authors wrote.
Researchers stressed that the study found sharing of fake news on Facebook was rare behavior and the “vast majority” of Facebook users in their data shared no articles from fake news domains.