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June 19, 2019

Study: Conservatives and elderly shared the most false Facebook information in 2016

January 10, 2019
Facebook (Kativ / Getty Images)

A new study reveals that Americans identifying themselves as ultraconservative and those over the age of 65 shared fake news on Facebook at a rate seven times higher then younger adults and liberals during the 2016 election season.

About 8.5% of those studied shared false information during the 2016 campaign, according to the study in Science Advances journal.

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Russian agents exploited Facebook by peddling misinformation and politically based advertisements in an attempt to sway votes. By impersonating Americans, the Russians were able to ingratiate themselves into political discourse and articulate invalid stances.

“For something to be viral you’ve got to know who shares it,” said politics professor and study co-author Jonathan Nagler. “Wow, old people are much more likely than young people to do this.”

Researchers interviewed over 2,700 Facebook users, half of whom shared all their postings. The researchers used three different false-information sites lists and counted how many times people exchanged information from those sites.

After crunching the numbers, the study noted that subjects 65 and older shared misinformation at a rate seven times higher than the 18-to-29-year-old group.

Study co-author Joshua Tucker chucks that conclusion up to seniors lacking “digital literacy” — older people having more difficulty telling the difference between truth and lies on social media.

Harvard professor Matthew Baum believes sharing false information is “less about beliefs in the facts of a story than about signaling one’s partisan identity.” He added that conservatives post more fake news because they are more likely to be more extreme with less ideological variation than liberals.

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