Each year the media reports more scams that older adults may fall prey to over the phone, online or in person but seniors are also the proportion of the population most likely to share “fake news” without verifying its authenticity. And this is how misinformation spreads so quickly and is adopted as fact by so many in a fast-paced news cycle.
According to a recent Washington Post report, research published in the journal Science Advances found that older Americans over the age of 65 were more likely than their younger counterparts to share news that was fake on social media sites like Facebook. And conservatives and Republicans were more likely to share false reports than liberals and Democrats.
The study of nearly 1,300 respondents following the 2016 United States election campaign who shared their timeline Facebook posts found that while only 8.5 percent of participants shared news from fake domains, Americans over 65 were 7 times more likely to share links to fake news.
In the time since this study was conducted, more safety measures have been put into place on social media to stem the spread of fake news. But older adults should take care to visit trusted news outlets for their information and only share news they are certain is accurate. If uncertain what site to trust, snopes.com is a fact-checking online resource that helps readers navigate a sometimes confusing online community. Snopes started in 1994 and is considered by journalists and readers to be a reliable and trusted source for original, fact-checked and investigative reporting.
If an online report appears to be slightly farfetched, it’s best to refrain from sharing any information before checking your sources. Older Americans who are fairly new to the digital media environment may lack the literacy to navigate online news and determine credibility. And while joining social media platforms like Facebook may help seniors stay connected with their friends and family, it’s important to remind older adults new to the community that not everything published online can be believed.