Fake news shared by very few, but those over 65 more likely to pass on such stories

January 9, 2019, New York University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A small percentage of Americans, less than 9 percent, shared links to so-called "fake news" sites on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election campaign, but this behavior was disproportionately common among people over the age of 65, finds a new analysis by researchers at New York University's Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) Lab and Princeton University.

The study appears in the journal Science Advances.

"Despite widespread interest in the fake news phenomenon, we know very little about who actually shares fake news," says Joshua Tucker, a professor of politics at NYU and co-director of the SMaPP Lab. "This study takes a first step towards answering this question.

"Perhaps most significantly, we find that sharing this type of content on Facebook was a relatively rare activity during the 2016 ."

Among the overall sample of study participants, drawn from a panel survey conducted by the polling firm YouGov, only 8.5 percent shared links from fake news sites via Facebook.

Notably, only 3 percent of those aged 18-29 shared links from fake news sites, compared with 11 percent of those over age 65. Critically, the association with age appears to be independent of respondents' ideological or partisan affiliations.

"If seniors are more likely to share fake news than , then there are important implications for how we might design interventions to reduce the spread of fake news," adds Andrew Guess, an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

In explaining their findings, the researchers outline how the correlation with age could reflect differences in more fundamental traits or skills—such as digital media literacy—that are theoretically related to social media sharing behavior. Exploring these possibilities, they note, should be a focus of future research.

Jonathan Nagler, a professor of politics at NYU and a co-director of the SMaPP Lab, also notes that "these findings suggest that teaching digital literacy in schools—no matter how beneficial that might be for other reasons—is unlikely to fully address the sharing of fake news if such sharing is more prevalent among older citizens."

By contrast, education, income, and gender were not systematically related to being more likely to share fake news, the study found.

The researchers did find a strong partisan difference: 18 percent of Republicans shared links to fake news sites, compared to less than 4 percent of Democrats. However, they cautioned against associating ideology with an underlying proclivity to share fake news, noting that this finding might simply be a result of the fact that most fake news produced during the campaign was pro-Trump or anti-Clinton in orientation.

"This is consistent with the pro-Trump slant of most fake news articles produced during the 2016 campaign," they write, "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."

Methodology note:

The panel survey, conducted in three waves from April to November 2016, included a sample of approximately 1,300 respondents who agreed to allow an app to temporarily share with the researchers information about their own timeline posts, including external links. The researchers did not have access to the content of people's News Feeds or information about their friends. Respondents read a privacy statement that informed them that they could withdraw at any time and that the researchers would not any personally identifying information.

To identify "fake news" sources, the researchers relied on a list of domains assembled by Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed News, the primary journalist covering the phenomenon in 2016. They classified as fake news any stories coming from such sites. They supplemented this list with other peer-reviewed sources to generate a list of fake stories specifically debunked by fact-checking organizations. The findings were found to be robust to multiple alternative measures of .

Explore further: 'Fake news' didn't change US election outcome: study

More information: A. Guess el al., "Less than you think: Prevalence and predictors of fake news dissemination on Facebook," Science Advances (2018). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4586 , http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau4586

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Bert_Halls
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 09, 2019
I forecast that this is going to be a delightful and productive comment thread.
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2019
"noting that this finding might simply be a result of the fact that most fake news produced during the campaign was pro-Trump or anti-Clinton in orientation."

In a world where most "Truths" have become true relative to one's point of view how can the researchers come to any sort of rational and unbiased conclusion about the actions of any particular group?????
Anonym518498
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 09, 2019
CNN = FAKE NEWS 24/7, should change its name to pravda/izvestia.

Now you dumb shits can go find out what pravda and izvestia were
Bert_Halls
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 09, 2019
And here's a good example of a 65+ year old.
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2019
Bert you are a prime example of the problem. You do not seek the truth. You just seek confirmation of your political viewpoint. To you politics is a religion and any truths that contradict your beliefs are considered heresy.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2019
wow, coming from you mr666?
your comment is a pinnacle of hypocrisy!

annoyingmousie, like the idiot who commented to an article about teamwork between nation's in outer space.

The cretin screeched that he/she/it would never listen to anything a commie chink had to say.

My reply was." "When the Chinese technician warns you not exit the airlock without putting on & testing a pressure suit?
You would refuse to accept the advice?
Cause Chinese & therefore probably a Communist.

& go cycle yourself right into space, unprotected?
To show everybody that you are a true-blue-patriotic American & manly-man?"

Come to think of it, I wonder if the infantile twit would listen to a Chinese Kuomintang spacer?

The twit, annoying, 666...
Leaves me wondering if we should be volunteering them the honor of earning their well deserved Darwin Awards?
rderkis
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2019
Let me ask. Just how can we be sure this is not fake news?
Ha, you all fell for this article.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2019
Trouble is, what libtard academie researchers at New York University's Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) Lab and Princeton University consider 'fake news' is actually the real thing which older, more experienced adults have come to recognize as such.

This would unfortunately skew their data significantly.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2019
Those who weren't educated by Progressives and neo-Marxists.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2019
Those who weren't educated by Progressives and neo-Marxists.

Sounds kind of like the vocabulary and attitude of a Hitler speech.
snoosebaum
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2019
''assembled by Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed News, ''

mr fake news himself , i don't see no stink'n bias !
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2019
Interesting age differences.

how can the researchers come to any sort of rational and unbiased conclusion about the actions of any particular group


Facts are not "relative", and the article describe how objective conclusions are reached: "The findings were found to be robust to multiple alternative measures of fake news."

how can we be sure this is not fake news?


Same idea as the source bias complaint: the original research was robust (repeatable) despite several methods, which eliminate source bias and is the way we know. Other researchers should repeat this, but in the absence of obvious mistakes or useful criticism scientists can be reasonable sure.

Science and facts are not rocket science - humanity figured this out half a millennium ago. Why haven't you?
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2019
'fake news' is actually the real thing which older, more experienced adults have come to recognize as such.


You're fooling yourself, old man.
Older adults are often inflicted with the Golden Age Thinking syndrome. This leaves them more susceptible to the manufactured fear shoveled at them by Fox News, et al. These outlets keep telling them that their old way of life is being threatened by "libtards", "progressives", and immigrants, thus stoking the fires of animosity that demagogues like Trump and his supporters use to their advantage.
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2019
Wow, it sounds like your the one that worships at the feet of CNN.
MR166
not rated yet Jan 11, 2019
"Older adults are often inflicted with the Golden Age Thinking syndrome. "

You mean like when one could tell their kids to go outside and play on their own.
You mean like when children had both a mother and a father.
You mean like when neighborhoods never locked their doors at night.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2019
You mean like when one could tell their kids to go outside and play on their own.
You mean like when children had both a mother and a father.
You mean like when neighborhoods never locked their doors at night.


Where I live kids do go outside and play on their own, and meet the other kids in the neighborhood and make friends and they go to the parks and play. My kids and grandkids had/have both parents (my husband passed some years ago), and I know that many of the other kids around here do too. And I don't have to lock my door at night- the last time I locked it was when I took a two-day road trip about 3 months ago.

It must suck to have to live in fear all the time- I'm truly sorry you do. I feel very fortunate to live in a safe, friendly, and culturally diverse community.
rderkis
not rated yet Jan 12, 2019
Phyllis Harmonic, I live in the type of community you are talking about. Semi rural, 1 acre plots, chain link fence all around my house with locked gate. Everyone knows their neighbors and helps each other. (I would guess that 90% of them are armed). Big rottweilers signs and even a couple of (no functioning security cameras). Yet I had a home invasion by a couple of guys that came into my rec room. If you feel safe without taking measures to make sure you are safe, you have your head in the sand.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2019
If you feel safe without taking measures to make sure you are safe, you have your head in the sand.


Thanks for your concern but I'm very aware of my exposure to risk and the means to minimize it.
rderkis
not rated yet Jan 13, 2019
Let me tell you about my precautions. I have 12 high definition pan tilt and zoom cameras. I use blue iris to inform me of any movement outside or in at night. There is a monitor by my bed so if they do go off at night I can look at them. On top of that I gave up the little rotts and went to daniffs. Half great dane and half mastiff. Of course I am armed with both a 40 cal glock with green laser sight and with a added thumb safety and a sagua 12 with a 20 round drum.

I sleep like a baby. :-) I have no fear of them coming back, in fact I look forward to it.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2019
@Phyllis may your neighborhood be the community you strive to make it.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2019
@Phyllis may your neighborhood be the community you strive to make it.

Aw, thanks Da Schneib- such a lovely sentiment! Our neighborhood has a large artist population and though at times raucous (lots of weekend parties) it generally has a warm, inviting vibe. Quirky neighbors, tons of great food, art everywhere! It's not perfect and it tends to attract some unsavory types from time to time, but I certainly don't feel the need to arm myself to the teeth or create a walled compound with deep surveillance. After nearly 60 years, it remains a haven for me and my family and I expect to spend the rest of my days right here. :)
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2019
Of course I am armed with both a 40 cal glock with green laser sight and with a added thumb safety and a sagua 12 with a 20 round drum. . . I have no fear of them coming back, in fact I look forward to it.


You yearn for violence. I abhor it. Living in a walled compound is the exact opposite of how I prefer to live. Freedom doesn't come from pistols and lead, or walls and cameras- not for me anyway.
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2019
You yearn for violence. I abhor it. Living in a walled compound is the exact opposite of how I prefer to live. Freedom doesn't come from pistols and lead, or walls and cameras- not for me anyway.


Sure it does! You really do have your head in the sand. The United States military have stood guard over you and your family your entire life. Many police force personnel have died to keep you and your family safe.
Freedom is NOT FREE! Pistols and lead is exactly why you have your freedom today. All the way from the revolutionary war thru two world wars. Even today many would like to enslave us or just plain kill you and your family just because you exist.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2019
Freedom is NOT FREE!


Where did I say it was? I've been paying taxes for decades, taxes that pay for the military and police, and all of the other public support services. I'm also actively engaged in my community and doing what I can to promote the safety of my neighbors. Further, I made it clear in my comments that I was speaking about what I require to feel safe, not what you do.

But for whatever reasons, you feel the need to twist my words into an opportunity for self-righteous condemnation of others who see the world differently than you do. You aren't satisfied with just telling us what you do to feel safe- you have to project your existential dread as some sort of noble virtue. I'll end this conversation by saying simply that you're paranoid and I'm not. Now, off to Ignoresville with you.
rderkis
not rated yet Jan 13, 2019
You have confused me. First you say bullets and lead don't protect me. Than you say they do. All the while displaying righteous indignation, while not directly admitting that you were wrong.
NeMaTo
not rated yet Jan 13, 2019
This article qualifies as "semi-fake" news; the news is real (there was a survey with those results) but the conclusion is NOT warranted (the survey was not a random "scientific" sample but in fact an internet poll). In other words, interesting, but the survey can not be used to generalize to the population.

For example, the study quotes a paper on the reliability of internet surveys, yet this paper says, "The specific features that we find are associated with misreporting, such as age, partisan strength, and possibly the choice of social platform itself, are moreover of substantive interest themselves." https://s18798.pc...king.pdf

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