If it feels like a certain group of your Facebook friends are sharing outlandish "news" articles, you may not be wrong. According to a new study by researchers from Princeton University, different demographics have increased likelihoods of sharing "fake news."
The article specifically mentions users over the age of 65 as the most likely to share from fake news domains. Researchers controlled for partisanship, ideology, and even how often the user shares.
The results seem to confirm what many already believed.
@SquigglyRick @NickEvershed This is been obvious ever since oldies discovered the "forward" button on email.— Noni Doll (@Noni Doll)1547080541.0
@daithaigilbert @vicenews So the people who told me in the year 2000 to not believe everything you see on the inter… https://t.co/iqlvHggjZm— Chad Stewart (@Chad Stewart)1547062467.0
@daithaigilbert @vicenews I can blame them for more than the proliferation of fake news. Student debt, fucking the… https://t.co/JWWts2ovkK— MattinglySideburns (@MattinglySideburns)1547073495.0
While sharing fake news was a rare occurrence overall, with less than 10% of participants sharing a flagged article, the breakdown of demographics that did so was persuasive.
Users over the age of 65 were around seven times more likely to share a fake article than the 18 to 29 age group.
Data also showed a strong correlation with conservatives sharing the fake news. However, the study's authors do point out this data is from the 2016 election, and there happened to be more fake news that was pro-Trump.
Because of this, they couldn't be sure if this was a product of conservatives themselves or a factor of there just being more fake news that confirmed their own bias.
Despite the study, and articles clarifying their methods and results, some people are still denying it.
@myfibonacci I am tweeting an article. Take it up with the research!— Rick Morton (@Rick Morton)1547078520.0
@CTVNews Unfortunately that’s all you are #CTV news is fake news. Most older people still think you report real new… https://t.co/uIGPT4z6yj— Lynda Favreau (@Lynda Favreau)1547136959.0
@CTVNews An app done on fb? lol. Most young people have now gone to Instagram or twitter. Seniors enjoy fb to share… https://t.co/9nGxAf3a2s— maryj (@maryj)1547084168.0
The fake news sources came from lists compiled by Craig Silverman, founding editor of BuzzFeed News. Silverman had compiled an analysis of how viral fake election stories spread on the social media website.
Silverman's list is held in high regard, but is not peer-reviewed. That said, the findings from the Princeton study do hold up when peer-reviewed lists are used in place of the BuzzFeed list.
One of the strangest takes on the article came from writer Jamie Bartlett, who said this article "dispels a widely held myth."
There were people who thought the reverse?
Big news & dispels a widely held myth. A major new study finds that old people are more likely than young people to… https://t.co/b6IwUAGGjq— Jamie Bartlett (@Jamie Bartlett)1547062191.0
@JamieJBartlett I have a question about who actually holds this "widely held myth" that I've never heard of, but I… https://t.co/l3wtkytZOV— Alexandra Erin (@Alexandra Erin)1547070400.0
@JamieJBartlett Can we assume this was sarcasm because I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the demographic that k… https://t.co/0kVEQkwOUD— Steven of House Gatewood, titles, titles, titles (@Steven of House Gatewood, titles, titles, titles)1547070716.0
This just in: Bears shit in the woods. https://t.co/IhcscGa2ro— Brittany Loggins (@Brittany Loggins)1547081549.0
Because so few people shared the fake news, the team couldn't pin down which topics were the most popular.
Andrew Guess, the study's lead author, said:
"For this reason I'd caution against tying this into reports about ad targeting to various subgroups, etcetera."
The study concludes with a possible recommendation to focus digital literacy on older users. If the study holds true, simple innovations could help prevent the spread of false stories in the future.