The worst spreaders of fake news across Facebook aren't the young'uns you'd expect to be glued to social media. Facebook users older than 65 share the most—almost seven times as many bogus articles as those ages 18 to 29, according to research by NYU and Princeton. The study, involving more than 1,000 Facebook users who voluntarily shared profile data and posts around the time of the 2016 US election, found the sharing of fake news to be relatively uncommon, as just 8.5% of participants were guilty of the practice, per the AP and the Verge. Some 18% of Republicans shared at least one link from 21 established fake news sites, compared to 3.5% of Democrats. However, researchers point out conservative users might've been exposed to more misinformation given the role of fake news in promoting Trump's 2016 candidacy.
In a relationship that holds regardless of party affiliation or ideology, 11% of users older than 65 shared a hoax, compared to 3% of users ages 18 to 29. "It's not just being driven by older people being more conservative," says Princeton's Andrew Guess, whose study is published in Science Advances. Rather, researchers suggest older people are more likely to fall for hoaxes due to poor digital-literacy skills and the effects of aging. As the study notes, "memory deteriorates with age in a way that particularly undermines resistance to 'illusions of truth.'" The fact that the oldest users shared more than twice as many fake news articles as users 45 to 65, and more than three times as many as users 30 to 44, bolsters this theory. Per the Verge, the study could lead to "more effective interventions to stop [users] from being misled." (According to a journalist, "we're on our own" for now.)