On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Who’s spreading hoaxes? It’s probably your grandparents

Share story

The latest research dive into internet hoaxes, politics and the dissemination of fake news will — sadly — not surprise you: Your grandparents are not great at telling the difference between fact and fiction on Facebook.

"On average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group," researchers write in a study published Wednesday in "Science Advances."

https://twitter.com/CaseyNewton/status/1083077931272826881

The relatively good news is that researchers found that only about 8.5 percent of people in their study shared one or more hoaxed news articles with friends. But that masks a serious problem with older baby boomers.

On the website The Verge, Casey Newton writes:

Facebook users ages 65 and older shared more than twice as many fake news articles than the next-oldest age group of 45 to 65, and nearly seven times as many fake news articles as the youngest age group (18 to 29).

“When we bring up the age finding, a lot of people say, ‘oh yeah, that’s obvious,’” co-author Andrew Guess, a political scientist at Princeton University, told The Verge. “For me, what is pretty striking is that the relationship holds even when you control for party affiliation or ideology. The fact that it’s independent of these other traits is pretty surprising to me. It’s not just being driven by older people being more conservative.”

The research doesn't try to explain why older people are, uh, more believing.

"The knee-jerk reaction to this tends to be 'lol grandpa,'" Newton writes on Twitter. "But you don’t have to be old to be vulnerable to fake news."