It is generally assumed that media competence and differentiation competence with regard to read content increase with increasing age. However, a US study shows that seniors are the most likely to share fake news on Facebook. Young adults between the ages of eighteen and 29 are much less susceptible according to the study.
Researchers at Princeton and New York Universities surveyed a sample of 3,500 people and observed user behavior in the months before and after the 2016 presidential election.
In the course of the study, only 8.5 percent of the study participants shared messages that were classified as fake news. Looking at the political attitude, it was noticeable that conservatives were slightly more likely to share fake news than liberal study participants. More noticeable were the differences in the age of the study participants. While eleven percent of users over the age of 65 shared fake news, only three percent of users between the ages of 18 and 29 did so. The results were independent of educational level and other demographic factors.
According to Duden, fake news is “false reports spread with manipulative intent in the media and on the Internet, especially in social media”. The authors referred to the Silverman list of journalist Craig Silverman and the Alcott and Gentzkow list of scientists Alcott and Gentzkow. Both lists have been adapted. All articles from the sources on the lists after the modifications were classified as fake news.
The cause of the more frequent sharing of these manipulative false reports by older people was not investigated in the study. The authors of the study merely speculated that older people lacked media literacy and had poorer memory.