With the rise of fake news on social media, many watchdog groups have suggested teaching young students how to differentiate real from fake as part of a media literacy campaign taught in schools.
It turns out they may be looking at the wrong age bracket.
A study from the journal Science Advances found that Republican baby boomers were the group most likely to share fake news stories on social media. As MarketWatch noted, the average person older than 65 shared seven times more false news stories and false information than those between 18 and 29. There seemed to be a concerted effort to put out fake news to target these groups.
“For something to be viral you’ve got to know who shares it,” said study co-author Jonathan Nagler, a politics professor and co-director of the Social Media and Political Participation Lab at New York University. “Wow, old people are much more likely than young people to do this.”
A follow-up report from MarketWatch suggested that Donald Trump may have had a major influence as he frequently pushed his own fake stories.
“There may also be a political explanation: A trickle-down effect from the president’s own remarks about the liberal media,” the report noted. “Older Republicans could feel more emboldened by Trump’s comments and, as a result, assume stories that support their causes are accurate. The president has doubled down of late on the view that the mainstream media’s negative coverage of his administration is rooted in bias.”
Fake news has existed by other names for as long as the internet has been around, but took a sharp increase during the 2016 presidential election in part through Russia’s interference to promote false stories in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning. Donald Trump himself adopted the phrase and frequently uses it in reference to stories critical of him or his administration, even ones that turn out to be legitimate.
Trump Posts Fake Ronald Reagan Quote Predicting a Trump Presidency https://t.co/dNB7dCGAlF Trump, Republicans and Fox are spreading fake news and lies to con Americans to vote for GOP so don't vote Republican
— John Kuykendall (@JohnJkuykendall) July 9, 2019
Donald Trump has even been an active participant in spreading fake news himself. As MSN noted, Trump recently shared a fake picture of Ronald Reagan shaking hands with Trump and quoting Reagan as saying, “I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president.” Trump dug up the tweet earlier this month, even though it had been posted two years earlier, and posted it with the comment “Cute!” without adding that the meeting never happened and Reagan never made the remark about Trump.