Baby boomers share nearly seven times as many fake news articles on Facebook as adults under 30, a new study finds.
In other news, the sky is blue.
So if it feels like Great Aunt Debra was sharing more stories about Trump ending school shootings by banning schools or Pope Francis endorsing Trump (yes, these were both actual fake news stories, and yes, people fell for it), it’s probably because she was.
The study, conducted by Princeton and NYU researchers, found that people over 65 years old were far more likely to share intentionally false or misleading information on Facebook than all other adults.
While 11% of users older than 65 shared at least one fake news article, only 3% of users between ages 18 and 29 did the same.
So Millennials may overspend on avocado toast, but at least they know “getting pizza” is not code for a secret underground human trafficking ring.
While sharing fake news is rare overall, the study found a person’s likelihood of sharing correlated more strongly with age than education, sex or even political views.
“No other demographic characteristic seems to have a consistent effect on sharing fake news, making our age finding that much more notable,” the study, published Thursday in Science Advances, explains.
In other words, blame the boomers.
But that doesn’t mean political views didn’t matter.
Out of the study’s participants, Republicans peddled more disinformation than Democrats with 18% of Republicans sharing fake news and only 4% of Democrats doing the same. But self-described “Independents” shared just as much fake news as Republicans. Those who identified as “very conservative” shared the most fake news. Go figure.
The study’s conclusions may seem pretty common-sense for anyone who’s Facebook friends with a fake news-sharing baby boomer, but it may also help social networks tackle the spread of disinformation.
For now, maybe we should get some baby boomers into media literacy classes.