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People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds (theverge.com)
381 points by arayh 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 416 comments

Anecdotal evidence: I remember how my 65 years old dad changed from a large-minded, world-traveling retired professor to an avid consumer of fake news in the span of fewer than two years.

Yes, it was a shock, but most of all I am mortified that this could happen to me as well when I get to his age.

My dad was similar, but he thought it was all a joke. He thought sites like rense and infowars were today's equivalent of the counterculture political satire from when he was young. He knew there were people on those sites who weren't in on the joke, and people with mental illness, but I think he thought it was maybe 5% or 10%, and it just added to the fun for him. He got reverse-pwned by Poe's Law. Yet still he found it absolutely compelling, more fun than following the real news. Underneath a layer of gallows humor he always seemed really patient with humanity's stupidity, much more so than me, but I think late in his life his patience started to run out and to stave off despair he decided to find some nihilistic fun in it.

This is definitely where my mom has gone. She thinks Alex Jones is very funny, but then ends up buying the books of conspiracy theorists and interjecting paranoid right talking points into everyday conversations.

Given that it happens so commonly around retirement, I think this is a function of not wanting to struggle or achieve anything anymore, and therefore succumbing fully to a convenient view, one which gives you a thing to worry about apart from your age and declining health, something participatory without being difficult. "Never mind my hip! What about those DEMOCRATS!!!"

If you don't think Alex Jones' gay frog song is funny, well then I just dont know what funny is.

Of the people I know who have fallen into this right wing vortex, regardless of age, all of them are retired. But it’s not everyone who’s retired! I know retirees who travel, stay engaged with hobbies, etc who did not end up in the vortex. It’s the ones who just sit there in retirement, immersing themselves in this stuff all day long, doing nothing else, that are getting sucked in.

I’m getting up there in age and I’m worried about this myself. My criteria for retirement is not just that I have enough money to stop working, but that I also have enough to travel or do a hobby and stay mentally engaged with something.

I'm pretty sure /r/the_donald started out as a joke and slowly turned real at some point. I still don't quite understand what happened. It would make an interesting investigation.

I love the Kurt Vonnegut quote "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." I think people who decide to like a thing "ironically" generally progress to liking it unironically without realizing it. Some continue to claim it's ironic, but when all their actions (including voting) are fully consistent with someone that likes the thing unironically, you have to wonder if the word "ironic" still has any meaning.

> "...you have to wonder if the word 'ironic' still has any meaning."

This is perhaps the most ironic thing.

Pretty sure most news agencies consider anything remotely conservative fake news now. I rarely ever see corrections or retractions from ANY of the big outlets. It's largely become infotainment, and everyone drinks from the fire hose of their own perspective. It's no wonder there is so little tolerance of any other perspective.

This will likely lead to another push for controlling the internet/media a la net neutrality, because we all know people can't be left to do their own research, use any amount of discernment, or have an alternative viewpoint.

Bring forth the gulags, the people need jobs...

This makes no sense, but is a common talking point. How is net neutrality "another push for controlling the internet/media"? If anything, it's the pure opposite, ensuring that all views can be accessed equally.

The old "net neutrality" did nothing directly for end users. It did not ensure anything for all views. Before it was even terminated, mass censorship (privately by the internet giants) had already started.

Instead, it benefited the likes of Netflix at the expense of the telecom industry. It also put the internet in a legal classification that would allow more government control of speech, though this had not yet been much of an issue in practice.

None of the above seems to have made much of a difference to end users.

It would be great to have a new sort of net neutrality, focused on end users. A nice thing about the end of the old one is that a new one could replace it, giving people what they mistakenly thought they had.

/r/T_D was such a strange mix of Russian bots, trolls, true believing incels, and meme spitting grandpas that I'm sure it could be studied for years by social scientists.

As could /r/politics, /r/srs and other extreme subreddits infested with bots, trolls and other societal rejects.

How unfortunate that this generation's social scientists are interested only in grinding and swinging the axe in one political direction. ;-)

In no way is TD and politics the same. TD is a cess pit of stupidity.

It alway felt to me like an enormous, manually-computed Markov chain.

Same with 4chan, from what I've heard.

There's a lesson here about social media: if you tolerate people pretending to be Nazis "as a joke", then you will soon become overrun with actual Nazis.

I can confirm. I was on 4chan a lot as a teenager (some ten years ago, now), and the Nazism was generally more a joke about how nasty and intolerant the board was. There were even 'raids' (essentially cyber-bullying) on racists.

I can only guess that things must have gone downhill when the site was taken over by Hiroyuki Nishimura, who has some pretty right-wing political views. That said, there's also a kind of natural affinity in the humiliated-outsider-mentality that 4chan had that fits with Nazism in a way that I feel has become more and more clear in recent years.

4chan hasn't really changed much, /pol/ (where most of the right-wing memery and conspiracy posts are) was always awful; it was created years ago to keep those kinds of posts away from other boards.

I was on the site a little over ten years ago too, and see the same affinities, in retrospect.

This is true. The same thing happened with the r/pcmasterrace subreddit-parody subs that were taken over by people not getting the joke.

I'vs seen this proclivity in a lot of older military guys. Korea and Vietnam vets. They just split their sides laughing at this stuff. Also, at least in the case of my father and uncle, the fact that people believe a lot of this stuff is what makes it all funny. I honestly don't believe they would be at all interested if no one believed it.

I wonder if your dad is ex-military?

Of course, all of that's older enlisted guys, (think vietnam era NCOs), which are the only ones I know. It would be interesting to find out if ex-military older commissioned guys find the same humor in any of what the country's going through. I'd like to think they wouldn't, but who knows?

I'm not ex military but I find Alex Jones legitimately hilarious and I'm astonished people take him seriously. Before I left fb I had an ex-Marine old friend from elementary school on my list and he shared conspiracy memes relentlessly, very much mirroring the stuff Russia used in the 2016 election meddling. He actually believed it. I gave up trying to debunk it and played along.

Check out Stephen Colbert's "Brain Fight with Tuck Buckford" - not sure who's more ridiculous him or Alex Jones. Stephen is funnier though...

I don't think mainstream comedy has really nailed the intensity and anger of the conspiracy theory alt-right. Their interpretation always has a certain snideness and lacks the sincerity of the real thing.

A little known comedian named Connor O'Malley had a series of comedy sketches about a fake website called truthhunters.com that I think captures it dangerously well.


I use to love Stephen when be pretended to be a right winger. But doesn't seem able to do that anymore since Trump became president.

He taught college history at a small state school. Definitely equivalent of enlisted; same sense of institutional powerlessness and futility. Officers would be the university administration. He used to circulate ("anonymously") humorous hand-drawn posters and pamphlets about their policies, and they did not appreciate his sense of humor at all.

This is so relatable. Virtually all "news" is entertainment these days. And entertainment is, at its core, a matter of subjective preference.

Well, maybe in the US. Come to Germany and I'll show you the snorefest of the news media here.

I'm a yankee and I like the boring, straightforward take the Germans have wrt news.

I've recently added DW.com to my regular news scan, joining the BBC and the trad USA outlets (AP, Reuters, NPR).

Quite a few years ago, someone at The Economist pointed out that you should pay attention to what went on in the US because it would get around to the UK/Europe in about 15 years.

Boring news is a breath of fresh air once you have lived in the US for a few years. Last time I visited my sister I was amazed how much information the Tagesschau gets across in a few minutes.

That was true until the Spiegel affair. I laughed hard when I read he described as fact fictional acounts of older American women who would travel the country to watch executions. Ha!

If it helps, I'm over 65 and while I've seen it to an extent in other people my age, it hasn't happened to most of my friends and most importantly, as far as I can tell it hasn't happened to me.

Your father notwithstanding, I think education and awareness have a lot to do with who gets sucked into the fake news vortex and who doesn't. On the other hand, I've seen some of my friends whom I thought would know better post some real dingers at times.

Those are ones that get me. Older but educated, intelligent people pushing this nonsense. Back in 2014, I got into with an older friend who was posting stuff from the gateway pundit. Tried to convince her it was an unreliable source but she continually doubled down. Lost cause. She was extremely right wing and it confirmed her biases. That was enough.

I remember a boss not so long ago, similar age. Started having a rant about a woman that was emailing him, flirting with him. I realised it was some kind of phishing thing. He just took it at face value. He wasn't naïve, and had all his faculties, so it really stuck out.

Maybe its like country bumpkins without street smarts, maybe they just havent learned the defenses needed?

True. There are so many issues most people don't even realize until it hits them personally.

https://ledger.humanetech.com - to see the cumulative damage, engagement maximizing social networks/news media are doing.

It’s pattern recognition and confusion. The news stories that are fake are presented and look the same way as real ones.

I would like to see a study using the same subjects but check to see if they can tell what is a Google search result and what is an ad.

It could be beginning dementia / Alzheimer's. At least that is the case for my father. Similarly to believing fake news, also lost his humour, he just doesn't get jokes any more, he takes them at face value.

I hope this is not the case for your dad and I'm sorry if I scared you, but you could consider having him checked.

IDK, I think it might be fear.

Fear seems to come on as people see people their age dying of various diseases, etc. Mortality is staring them in the face.

And though it starts with the fear, everything that panders to fear follows....

What's the use in getting it checked? It's not like early cancer detection in which an early diagnosis might have some effect on the outcome of the disease. (?)

There are meds that can slow down the demise. Also just knowing helps a lot in how to deal with the suffering.

I'm sorry about your father, but your comment made me wonder how common this is.

I wonder: could an aging population endanger democracy by not being able to distinguish truth from falsehood?

I used to read the national enquirer (UFOs, Bigfoot!) religiously as a kid. I suspect there is something that appeals to people at certain stages in life. Most likely, as you get older/younger you desire stimulation. In mid-life, you're probably over-stimulated.

Yup. In middle school a buddy of mine and I used to read all that stuff. Lots of fun.

Hey friend, let me in on some of that get-younger juice!

Just poking fun.

Fairy tales!

It all happened when my father got an iPad and a Facebook account. Now he sits around and consumes the cancerous vomit spewed by "old friends" and predatory "news" outlets. He doesn't understand how any of it works; he has fallen victim, and there's nothing at all that I can do about it. He takes pride in his involvement, even if it's just consumption. It's tearing him away from reality and his family. It's almost as sad, scary, and infuriating as watching someone decline due to mental disease. If anyone has any recommendations, I'm all ears.

I'm not sure but I've noticed similar behaviours in others. I think it is due to the random reward of getting an item when you swipe a few times in the facebook app: people become absorbed in it the same way they become absorbed in gambling terminals, and crucially it is the same mechanism of reward.

It might be worth considering what interventions people make with problem gamblers. I suspect if those interventions would work for people in your situation too.

You are not alone. I have witnessed similar changes in people older than me. I have also been wondering how to prevent that.

It's not surprising. That generation grew up as the conventions in media itself were being developed. Those are my parents and they have a much different view and trust in media than my generation, and my kids have even less trust in media. My dad flipped. My mom hasn't (yet) but I think that's because she's overly skeptical of everything.

The part I fear most is that healthy dose of skepticism that most people used to have is being turned against those people. If you're not with us, you're against us. Nope, that's a false dichotomy. My father doesn't know what a false dichotomy is. That wasn't something he was taught in grade school or business school. That is something I was taught.

I think the best thing we can do is not argue with the older generation about the subject matter itself, but simply arm them with the tools to find flawed arguments in the subject matter. If you're reading this, and you're not familiar with the concept of logical fallacies, that's a good place to start because fake news is almost always built on logical fallacies that are easy to disassemble once you can spot them:


Once everyone has the tools to debate effectively, then we can have civilized discussions about the actual subject matter itself.

> The part I fear most is that healthy dose of skepticism that most people used to have is being turned against those people.

That is my fear as well. "Believe nothing," would be the wrong takeaway from all this, but I'm afraid a cynical population of our youth might very well be following that course.

Be skeptical of skepticism too I tell my daughters.

The New Sincerity and Meta-Modernist trends offer a refuge of sorts. The naiveté of modernism (and disastrous effects of grand narratives in the 20th century) led to post-modern deconstruction and questioning of what they considered truths which were too easily accepted.

Unfortunately, that led to cynicism, "analysis paralysis" and other forms of intellectual and (for lack of a better word) spiritual exhaustion.

It's hard to believe in anything that, when you really break it down and analyze it is wrong in so many ways. And that applies to virtually everything, in all honesty. There are no perfect answers.

It's important, though, to believe in something. You're right that we are seeing that cynicism turned from apathy to destruction and hate.

I think a great case study in how to ask questions while still believing in building something positive is the show, The Good Place. The specific episode, "Jeremy Bearimy" deals with how you pick up the pieces from realizing that nothing matters, everything is a mess and humanity is deeply flawed.

I think that "Believe extremely skeptical of anything you are forwarded--especially if it is virally interesting" is probably closer to actionable.

This is close to the point I was trying to make about memetics and evolutionary psychology: "Is this post triggering in me some irrational behavior to which humans are commonly susceptible?"

Some non-anecdotal evidence that supports your anecdote:



"Our research suggests that the cognitive process supported by the vmPFC may play a role in older adults’ susceptibility to scams."

I know a guy that is half that age and did a similar process. Not from professor though but from someone who does random jobs. So having consumed all this fake stuff - which at the time seemed at best stupid and boring - he is now active in alt right like movements. One prequesite for this was probably also some degree of isolation.

Stay unplugged from social media and especially mainstream media and you’ll be just fine.

You mean "Don't trust mainstream media, watch this shocking video instead"?

"Don't trust mainstream media" doesn't mean you have to turn to even more untrustworthy sources, nor does it mean you can't ever go to mainstream outlets for information. It just means you have to examine what you're told critically and compare it across sources.

I had an epiphany in mid-November 2018. I realized that, despite watching and reading the news on a pretty much daily basis, none of my voting decisions were changing as a result. I examined voting decisions I'd made going back to 2016 and realized none of them were materially changed by watching the news with such regularity and granularity. This isn't to say that I'm set in my ways and never change my viewpoint. Rather, I think it's more a reflection on the fact that political candidates don't tend to change much over short periods of time, so after a certain point watching or reading the news will simply reaffirm what you already know about them rather than introduce fundamentally new information. A politician who had viewpoint X or trait Y yesterday probably still has viewpoint X today or trait Y today; that may not be true in 5 years, but I don't need to be plugged in every single day.

I realized I only really need to "check in" periodically and see if the voting landscape has truly changed. When "checking in," I've found I have far less allegiance to a particular source and am more open to checking several and comparing. When you don't follow a particular source almost religiously and only peek in once a week or once every two weeks, the "circus" nature of the media starts becoming alarmingly apparent. The disparity between the calm of real life and the 24/7 chaos and tragedy of the news becomes impossible to ignore. My voting patterns have not changed as a result of my disengagement, but my anxiety/outrage/uneasiness have all went down significantly. I now view my previous habit of watching the media every day as a downright unhealthy addiction.

Yup Matt Taibbi has a good book calling the news media - Hate Inc. They spend all their time stoking fears and amping peoples anxiety and threat perception, all to maximize engagement - https://taibbi.substack.com/p/introduction-the-fairway

>none of my voting decisions were changing as a result. I examined voting decisions I'd made going back to 2016 and realized none of them were materially changed by watching the news...


Why would a voting decision change based on what you see on the news? Your senator or representative has little to do with the guy who killed his kids and wife last night.

WATCHING news will only get you the extreme stuff. That's how they keep eyeballs. For instance, we know a lot more about Kashoggi than we know about the prime minister that MBS kidnapped. That's because, as horrible as this may sound, the Kashoggi story had more "sizzle" for lack of a better term. This even though the prime minister being kidnapped actually did more to upset the global order.

Maybe rather as in, stay away from mainstream media because the hosts will literally talk to you as if you were a toddler, yell at you really, constantly flash colorful thingies in your face, blast stupid loud jingles, and drag out idiotic news stories over days as if they were soap operas. I cringe when I visit my parents and CNN is on in the middle of the day. I'm convinced that that loud, obnoxious infotainment contributes to their degraded mental faculties.

That’s more 24 hour news than the mainstream media.


I'm not exactly sure what @Brakenshire meant, but I suspect they are saying to ignore the 24 hour news channels and stick to the news formats that aren't trying to break news as it happens. For example, Axios has been consistently good. NYT, Washington Post, etc long form stories that are published when the research is done, not when a deadline is up.

Either way, avoid the opinion section and at least stick to news that fact checks against two reliable sources. For example, that would eliminate most programs on Fox News, nearly all of Breitbart, etc.

Could you expand on what you mean by this separation?

I think the things you mention are just more characteristic of rolling news in particular than they are of the media in general, which is incredibly varied in form, tone and reliability. Flashy graphics, soap opera style narratives, shouting for drama etc are all dictated by the economic forces which underpin rolling news, in particular having to generate an enormous amount of material as cheaply as possible, and in effect a competition to get viewers addicted. There is fantastic news and analysis elsewhere, a large part of it in mainstream publications.

Well, that's the great conundrum. You consume media no matter where you get it, so not getting it from one place or another is not really gonna help you avoid "fake news".

What you see on blogs is no more reliable than what you see on FOX, which itself is no more reliable than what you see on youtube. It's pretty much all rubbish a lot of the time.

So yeah, you stay away from mainstream media, then you'll likely be consuming "shocking", and just as fake, media from some other source instead. That's just the preponderance of what's out there unfortunately. No avoiding it really.

Thinking about it game theoretically, it's probably smarter just to accept that there is fake media out there, and go ahead and consume media from whatever your favored sources are with that caveat in mind.

ie - It's fine to watch mainstream media. Certainly FOX, MSNBC, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC etc are all no worse than reading or watching anything else. Certainly no worse than anything you see on youtube. But you should "buy" stories like you'd "buy" anything else...

Caveat Emptor.

One thing I've noticed about the blogs I read is that they usually provide sources, while even reputable media outlets like the NYT or WSJ will often publish articles about the results of a new study without naming it or linking to it. Having a source or sources is a key differentiator between good news, news that misinterprets or exaggerates the data but is still loosely related to reality, and completely fake news.

>Having a source or sources is a key differentiator between good news, news that misinterprets or exaggerates the data but is still loosely related to reality, and completely fake news...

Depends on the quality of the sources. It's been my experience that, "evidence", and "sources" that blogs and mainstream media cite is oftentimes completely ridiculous. Mainstream media will cite a blog, or a blog will cite a youtube video. "Studies" are cited that are not peer reviewed. Even the "peer reviewed" studies are riddled with errors. Don't even get me started on things like the late unpleasantness involving the Intelligencer, barely science at all, and the NYJM, critical to the cite record.

Nowadays we just have to face the fact that there's a lot of garbage out there. It's just the world we live in now. So consume it, but be aware of what it is you're getting. Most of it is in no way reliable information.

Well, I guess it's better to have some sort of source than no source like many news articles do. Or to have a broken link as a source. Or a reference to a non existent publication like in that other recent Hacker News story.

Having a source only makes a story about 1% more credible, but having a dubious/non existent/fake one is a good indication the story shouldn't be trusted.

That's clearly not what OP said.

Data journalism and long-form deep investigative journalism is fine, or least less bad. With the caveat that data journalism that illustrates past or current events is fine, but that which tries to draw correlations or make predictions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Short form journalism I ignore, or seek the primary source (like a president’s speech or similar).

>long-form deep investigative journalism

I like the distinction you put here, as I've found most "long form" journalism to be focused on superficial details and to try to emphasize innuendo and rumor into emotional plays rather than focusing on facts. As soon as I hit a physical description of one of the people involved that covers more than a sentence (when the article isn't covering a topic involving a physical description), I know the author isn't focused on the parts I care about.

Which is a shame, as there is plenty of investigative journalism that benefits from deeper coverage. Just a lot fewer people doing it. (likely as a consequence of fewer people caring enough to make it financially viable, to properly place blame, but from my end I want the material, not to place blame)

News == current happenings. It really never helps me with seeing the bigger picture. Unless I'm already aware of the big picture in which case News augments my understanding.

Magazines == Get the big picture on a broad range of topics.

Books == Get the full picture on specific topics.

Looking at things this way I have come to realize that most news I used to read doesn't add any empirical value to me. Sure I can show off I know this and that and that happened and how stupid is that and laugh at it. But that's about it. News (cable news) is literally entertainment IMHO.

> Books == Get the full picture on specific topics.

No. You'll get a well informed point of view but it's still just a single persons point of view.

Not necessarily "well-informed". Plenty of books out there which peddle nonsense.

I don't trust long-form investigative journalism one bit. It relies heavily on anecdata and emotional narrative to manipulate you into a particular view.

We probably have different things in mind. The best example of what I'm talking about is Bloomberg's reporting back in 2011 on the Fed's actions during the financial crisis, including their lawsuit to force the Fed to respond to their FOIA requests:



That was not only hard work, but given that most financial media tends to avoid biting the hand that feeds it, uncommonly gutsy. One of the best examples of investigative journalism I'm aware of.

Are people even plugged into mainstream media, barring talking heads on fox news, cnn, or youtube? Even on reddit, which purpotes to be more informative than a youtube comment section, it is plainly obvious the bulk of the commenters don't read the article beyond the linked headline. There is nothing sinister about repudable publications and their written articles.

Gather all information from primary sources?

Sarcasm aside, I do agree that journals and other longer period periodicals are more reliable.

In the age of the internet, that doesn't have to be as sarcastic as you think it might.

You still aren't going to be emailing eyewitnesses for their take.

Yes, completely isolate yourself. It'll do you good.


>I am mortified that this could happen to me as well when I get to his age

The Internet was such a monumental shift in how society and civilization as a whole functions, and in such a small amount of time, that unless you grew up with it, it should be expected that whole swaths of demographics have no idea how to successfully navigate it (especially when there's next to zero centralized resources on its many pitfalls).

Does he live alone? I'm convinced that plays a large factor.

Same here. My Japanese father who speak English and regularly traveling foreign countries for the job is now became extreme nationalist and far-right fanatics.

I know he didn't have that kind of personality before. It's quite shocking.

And yes. I'm worrying to become like him one day.

There is some actual biology behind this. Many of the natal symptoms of aging promote "fake news" and what are generally considered "right wing" views. As one ages one's memory begins to slip. More recent memories slip first. So in the hard drive of one's mind, the past seems better and more reliable than the present. The nurse who visits once a week is a perpetual stranger not to be trusted. And if she speaks a strange language...

I've seen quite a few previously open minded and intellectual people fall into an echo chamber and choose less outlets as they age. They get locked into one or maybe two similar ideological outlets and everything else is wrong.

There are multiple levels of trolling happening in these situations. Many read Infowars as satire like the Onion, and they get off pretending to believe its true just to mess with people. It’s the whole flat earth thing.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

If someone’s hobby is pretending to be an asshole or stupid... they might actually just be an asshole or stupid.

“I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking.”

—Dorothy Sayers

That’s twice this thread I’ve seen this Vonnegut quote as a thought-terminating cliche, which is two times too many. If you want to have a deeper discussion on the effects of irony on a community, by all means let’s do so. What we should not do is reduce the entire thing down to a pithy mess of fake profundity based on the fame of its speaker, that would be shouted down as the unsubstantiated conclusion it is, if any one of us said it.

It also describes many professional commedians. Humans are strange :)

Also happened to both my parents, especially my dad. My mom can still be reasoned with and I can change or at least open her mind with logical arguments. My dad on the other hand is all in.

it's probably less likely for younger people because we grew up with this form of media.

I disagree. One just has to look at Reddit to see that the younger generation is as caught up in all this as any.

I think some people are just wired to think that way and, as we get older, some people switch to thinking that way. As I get older, I get more concerned that whether or not I mentally decline in one way or the other is just random chance and genetics.

> One just has to look at Reddit to see that the younger generation is as caught up in all this as any.

The study refutes that statement. I'm not saying we're invincible, I'm just saying we're less susceptible.

Anyways, afa mental decline with age goes, some of it is random, some of it is genetics, some of it is lifestyle that is 100% in your control.

Perhaps younger people don't share "fake news" because they simply don't share like that. How many people under 30 are sharing news on Facebook? It doesn't mean they're not down the rabbit hole on /r/the_donald or /r/incels. Perhaps the generational divide is not in the what but the how.

that's a fair point i didn't consider

They are worse off. News for them is headline deep; no one reads articles from reputable publications for info anymore, they'd rather have a handsome talking face on youtube 'break it down' in 20 minutes what would be a 4 minute nyt article containing the same factual points and none of the wishy-washy 'analysis.'

The more you read about the world, the better things stick in your head, the more connections you make, and the more you know. If you leave the critical thinking to some internet celebrity with no incentive to be credible, you end up being coddled from a lot of the news and get basic facts wrong.

There has always been fake news...yellow journalism, whatever; and it was always in just as much abundance. If you study history it becomes abundantly clear that most of man's terrible actions to one another is the result of fake news. Heck - this study is fake news; crafted to deliver exactly what the researchers wanted to find.

Sure, but it has been less prevalent (in sheer volume) and hard to quantify historically. Now we can scrape their social media and get real data.

I wonder. I'm in my 30's and while people my age maybe less likely to fall for fake news I know all to many people that will eagerly believe every obviously staged 'viral video' is completely real. I think the percentage of rubes remains the same regardless of age, just who is being targeted with what changes.

It's far more likely that younger people simply don't share any kind of news articles very much. I.e., their media consumption patterns are different.

My mother did the same. She was tolerant once.

> Yes, it was a shock, but most of all I am mortified that this could happen to me as well when I get to his age.

I find this incredibly uncomfortable that the OP and you are attributing the spreading of fake news to ageism. No, I don't believe so. Since your evidence is an anecdote, I have many many more anecdotes to disapprove that assessment.

The linked article cites a study which found older users to be more vulnerable (at least, they shared more false news stories.) The study controlled for political affiliation (because most of the fake stories were pro conservative.)

While the GP's thoughts may be anecdotal, the study is not. Whether or not that makes you "uncomfortable" is irrelevant. Have you found issues with the study in question?

You're no more correct that your anecdotes disprove his claim. Also, he explicitly said "could happen"; it was a concern, not a conclusion. The central question in this discussion is whether or not there is an age correlation, and according to the linked study there is.

We should be probably be careful though about the distinction between "humans aged 65+" and "humans aged 65+ at this moment in history". I.e., it seems likely there'd be cultural effects in this.

Like other commenters, this study jives with my experience with older relatives. I mean 'forwards from grandma' has been a thing forever, right?

'Bill Gates will give a nickel every time this is read' (remember email chains?), 'naked women get shared, but this heroic child won't get a single like', 'Like and Share if you stand with politician X', etc etc.

Combine this with the targeted scamming of elderly from various Nigerian princes and jailed grandchildren, and there does seem to be a much greater degree of credulity with our current elderly generation. I think a more interesting study would be to figure out whether it's generational, a function of changing brain physiology as we age, or what.

Agree with you completely.

I'll also throw in to the mix - creating news 'back then' required someone to gather it, someone to write it up, a printing press or studio, distribution, whatever - people and effort and time and money.

I don't think a lot of the older people I've spoken to realise quite how easy it is to put something on the Internet. Therefore anything that appears, and has the feel of something 'official' must have come from a credible place with the same time and effort involved. If that makes sense?

Makes complete sense. I don't think folks that pre-date the computer age (with some exceptions) have a intuitive grasp of what the 90s would call cyberspace, and how that differs from meatspace construction.

I suspect it’s at least partly that the elderly didn’t grow up with Internet, never really understood its culture, didn’t hang out on 4chan, Reddit, etc, and never developed a highly attuned BS/scam detector like more of the younger generations did.

Many of these folks don’t even really understand how the Windows UI motif works, they’ve just memorized enough procedures to get stuff done on it.

I also suspect that many of those artfully worded and subtly manipulative email forwards of the late 90s and 2000s May have been Russian psyops experimenting with viral information. They were always just a little too clever and effective while trying to look colloquial and organic, and I always suspected it was some PR outfit somewhere cranking them out, but could never divine a reason for the non-political ones. But maybe it was psyops testing and learning techniques in a long game just coming to light now.

> I also suspect that many of those artfully worded and subtly manipulative email forwards of the late 90s and 2000s May have been Russian psyops experimenting with viral information. They were always just a little too clever and effective while trying to look colloquial and organic, and I always suspected it was some PR outfit somewhere cranking them out, but could never divine a reason for the non-political ones. But maybe it was psyops testing and learning techniques in a long game just coming to light now.

How can you possibly post comment on the elderly not having highly attuned bs detectors and then close with that paragraph? What irony!

What part of that sounds like BS?

We know they have industrial scale operations to post propaganda now. [1] Obviously this had to start somewhere. I'm pretty sure many intelligence agencies have been researching how information spread on the internet ever since it was created.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/18/world/europe/russia-troll...

The US has been running its own industrial propaganda machine since at least the end of WWII. Carl Bernstein and other journalists uncovered a number of "influencer" and cutout operations in the late 70s which placed CIA-sourced stories in the supposedly respectable and independent mainstream media.

The line between honest journalism, state propaganda, and fake news has always been a very porous one.

In fact there are different propaganda modalities for different demographics. Rather like advertising - if you think a message is transparent, clumsy, and ridiculous, that doesn't mean you're clever enough to be immune to manipulation, it means you're not the target audience for it.

>How can you possibly post comment on the elderly not having highly attuned bs detectors and then close with that paragraph? What irony!

Are you saying you think all those email forwards during that time period were all organic and none were the result of PR/propaganda/psyops operations?

I'm honestly not sure which is the null hypothesis here, and thus who owns the burden of proof.

The thing that bothered me about 4chan was that everyone pretended to be silly and insensitive but were competent people that would run the country in a few years

I always had every problem accurately solved with b from people that were lawyers and doctors or were rising up the ranks in those fields

I'm sure you remember this quote then: "a community who gets its laughs by pretending to be idiots will eventually be surrounded by idiots who think they are in good company"

This explains SO much of not just 4chan sub-groups, but a lot of internet groups, and I honestly don't think older generations can't think like this. Ironic humor doesn't occur to them; they take it all at face value. Unfortunately ideas spread on 4chan and elsewhere stop becoming memes and start becoming someones reality.

There's no better example of this than Facebook. A graveyard of dead, crappy, overused memes, and younger generations are not using Facebook anymore, it's older generations now.

Exactly right, except one of my grandmas only sends me articles from Snopes. It's kind of like reverse fake news. The only online contact I get from her is articles debunking fake news, but, never any actual real news.

I would say she's fine then.

I think with the internet age and online banking it is much easier to exploit people who are still in control of their finances but starting to enter dementia/Alzheimer's. These people can loose a lot of money to scammers so the scammers spend a lot of time trying to find them. Especially now that you can do it from a computer overseas and will never be prosecuted. The strange misspellings, bad grammar, and obviousness of these Nigerian scams letters are done on purpose so that people responding are much more likely to be in this confused state.

> I mean 'forwards from grandma' has been a thing forever, right?

Let me tell you that grandma' with email is a relatively new phenomena.

I started trading emails with my grandmother some time around 1990.

That's not literally forever, but, considering that it's longer than one or two HNers have been alive, it's at least figuratively forever.

My emails from grandma predate Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Gmail, FWIW.

Before that, I'd get snail mail with tabloid clippings and handwritten local rumors.

no its not, Grandmas have been online since we all have its just that the barrier has lowered and now there are more.

I am old enough to remember when 'forwards from Grandma' was newspaper clippings sent in the mail! Nothing has changed.

At least she had to cut a real newspaper, limiting her forward to one. Lucky you!

I wonder if this study includes memes like that or only actual site links external to Facebook.

I have similar experiences with older loved ones I'm friend with on Facebook and it's rare they send links. But I think the rampant meme-sharing of misinformation/disinformation is much more prevalent.

I'm really really loathe to say this ... but in today's climate, "memes are news". I have 100% had the contents of memes thrown at me in a political discussion. I happen to be online a lot, so in many cases, I've seen the meme scroll by and it's easy both to realize what it is (fake propaganda), and easy to debunk ... but to those folks, it's as real as if delivered by Walter Cronkite's lips.

The last election really turned me off of social media. The amount of absolutely false memes and screenshots being shared by both sides was way too much. I recently saw some of the ads and memes being churned out by the Russian propaganda machine. I was not so surprised some of the stuff they created was the same crap people I knew were sharing as truth by intelligent yet older people.

Where is the primary source of this, where can I go to see popular memes?

I read HN, Reddit and sometimes /., and I guess due to my settings I miss a lot of stuff. I'm not on FB, IG or snap, is that why I'm missing these memes?

Mainly facebook, twitter, and some of the seedier areas of reddit (AFAIK, depends on who you follow) ... it's also quite concerning how many of these memes and conspiracies seem to originate in 4chan; a literal hive of scum and villainy (and trolls, foremost). I never would have imagined I'd see the day when I would see prominent personalities and politicians literally tweeting screenshots of 4chan threads

Reddit is a good place and they even have subreddits about Russian botnets posting comments. If I look on Facebook it’s mostly other people sharing them not me and I don’t know where they get them.

Some of this stuff is just political garbage in meme style. Basically a pic with block letters.

My personal experience has been it's almost exclusively on FB in the U.S. I've heard it's big on WhatsApp in Brazil which is strange, but believable.

> both sides


In my experience (and this is explicitly anecdotal) ... it seems like liberal memes tend to either satirize a politician's actions or repeat opinion-based editorial info, while conservative memes are more often explicitly fake ... yes, satirical/op-ed memes obviously exist there, but I see more obviously false and easily-debunked conservative memes.

For the conservative, those op-ed memes can tend to be interpreted as the oft-quoted "fake news", which is where I'm guessing the "both sides" sentiment comes from.

Again, that's just entirely my anecdotal experience.

Study says that damage to the prefrontal cortex in older adults can increase susceptibility to fraud and scams, which may be related to why older people share more fake news.

[source] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4971060/

You can search for J. Rogan with Robert Sapolsky podcast where doc said that either prefrontal or orbitofrontal cortex finishes developing at ~25 years old, so brain can learn about environment and extrapolate accumulated experience later throughout life. I think age bias is not appropriate, because youngsters could consume propaganda with memes, feeds and games as well, just through the different medium. What matters here is anxiety level and/or IQ.

Admittedly, there is definitely a precedent for youngsters who fall for fake news. I am reminded that a number of under-65s thought they could charge their iPhone in a household microwave, even though you would think that common sense would dictate otherwise.


Anxiety can also increase for older adults


(I can't find the original papers)

Woah, very interesting study, thanks for sharing.

It makes sense - they grew up in a time where news was (relatively) reliable/truthful, so perhaps don't have the same "this may not be true" skepticism that younger generations have.

> It makes sense - they grew up in a time where news was (relatively) reliable/truthful,

No, they grew up in a time when media distortion was less likely to be revealed because the major media was narrower and it's ideological biases more consistent, and voices outside the major media had major barriers to reaching any substantial audience.

Media distortion and truthfulness are not the same thing.

People and media will always have a viewpoint that distorts their objectivity. That is just fact of live and not necessarily bad thing as long as it's honest belief. Media used to be more reliable and truthful in the past with the normal distortions that people had. Mainstream media is still like this. Their problem is the lack of money and time that lowers their ability to do original reporting and check facts. They are the victims of dishonest influencing, not the originators. Fox News is the only major mainstream media source that has completely turned news into dishonest influencing operation.

Today the distortions are the same but there is significant increase in intentional influencing with data and arguments that those who propagate them don't believe. Using the same talking point to argue for and against issues is good example of this.

Shady figures like Christopher Blair just sit in their homes and push out (non-mainstream viewpoints) disinformation they know is false.

Agreed completely.

In addition, a huge difference between traditional media, and modern "fake news" is accountability.

As biased as they can be, traditional articles always come with an author name, and published or run under the responsibility of the media themselves.

They can, and often do, give a specific story a slant which supports their point of view or agenda, but they really cannot outright lie, since they would be called out or even be subject to legal action:


"Fake News" have no traceable source, no attributable author, no accountability.

Fox isn't the first, nor is it the only one, especially outside of the US. The UK tabloids have operated a lot like that for pretty much their entire existence, peddling misinformation and moral panics like they're going out of fashion. Hell, the Daily Mail even had a song written about it cause of that.


It's also pretty prevalent on the radio, and has a fair few historical precedents from before journalism saw credibility as an important thing to keep in mind (yellow journalism et all).

New York Daily News, Daily Mail or UK tabloids are not considered legitimate journalism. They are yellow trash, tabloid journalism, also known as rag newspapers. They belong to the same category as Infowars.

They're also the most popular media/'news' outlets in the country.


The Mail's website is also the most visited English language news site in the world.


Depressing? Certainly. Puts a damper on the idea that most people got their news from realiable sources before the internet? Yep.

> Fox News is the only

Seriously? Pretty much all major networks have been caught making stuff up. CNN has been caught giving debate questions ahead of time to their pet candidate.

CNN fired Donna Brazile as a contributor after that.

CNN's statement:

>"On October 14th, CNN accepted Donna Brazile's resignation as a CNN contributor. (Her deal had previously been suspended in July when she became the interim head of the DNC.) CNN never gave Brazile access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate. We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor."

When mainstream media catches individual journos making stuff up they get fired as it should be. Brazile was not even a journalist or employee. She was running the campaign.

> they get fired as it should be

With Brazile, yes, they "accepted her resignation" - not even fired. With other journos, they only fired them after they were caught making stuff up by outsiders. With yet another group, talking heads at CNN make stuff up on a regular basis, but yet they are there because they are "opinion" talking heads. Not just CNN - same with all the other news orgs.

Given Donna Brazile's past and her obvious partisanship, she should have never been allowed to work at CNN to begin with. If they want to be perceived as neutral and fair, that is. That's like hiring Eric Trump to do commentary, while his dad is running for office.

>>Fox News is the only major mainstream media source that has completely turned news into dishonest influencing operation.>>

To me, it's ideas like this that perpetuate the problem. It clings to the idea that journalists and journalism - at least that which is sold via mainstream media channels - are capable of some kind of pristine objectivity. They aren't. It is much healthier in my opinion to understand that news is not special within its medium. It's entertainment like everything on every other channel. It's somewhat less fictional obviously, but the entertainment motive is what lies behind it.

I would suggest instead that Fox News was the first major mainstream media source that dropped the pretensions and openly did what "news" has been doing since Walter Kronkite but with an equal and opposite bias. And to that extent, it has had a beneficial effect on society: we now know to watch carefully what a given journalist decides to report on and what they don't and we work harder to extract facts, if there are any, from the pre-determined narratives they are wrapped in. Whether purposely or not, they made news look like a joke. And we are smarter now because of it.

Fox news doesn't correct their lies when exposed, they double down. Unlike any other journalistic entity that isn't state run.

  they double down.

Which is to say that their peers don't correct their lies when not exposed. Which is to say that the number of corrections is proportional to the number of exposures. So Fox is just a pig among pigs in lipstick. I'll buy that, but it doesn't really change my point.

Reputable publications correct their factual errors all the time. Reputable publications also fire people who discredit journalism with their behavior.

You fail to see the main point of my comment.

> are capable of some kind of pristine objectivity.

My point was that media bias is not same as not being untruthful. Fox News stands alone in the mainstream media in their network level intentionally false reporting.

How do you know their "intentions" much less those of their peers?

> Fox News is the only major mainstream media source that has completely turned news into dishonest influencing operation.

That's is absolutely untrue. The reason you think that is because your pre-existing bias disagrees with them.

CNN, HuffingtonPost, Washington Post, etc, etc, etc do the exact same thing, from the other side.

Here's a helpful list: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/left/

Which sites that you read are on there?

I've made a conscious decision to disbelieve any news unless it came from a site on this list: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/center/

I only news sources not on that list for entertainment.

You confuse bias with truthfulness.

The distinction was subject of my comment.

Hmmm. Time magazine, the morning newspapers and CBS/ABC/NBC evening news was much more middle of the road than today's Drudge/Huffpost, CNN/Fox and google/reddit (and HN) type ideological bubbles. More straight news.

Back farther in the past, the many competing newspapers were very partisan. Perhaps we're just back to that situation.

IDK, support for the Vietnam war was sky-high for over a decade, despite the lies coming out of multiple administrations.

(this supports my claim. was that your intent?)

"Middle of the road" has no consistent relationship with "factual."

> Hmmm. Time magazine, the morning newspapers and CBS/ABC/NBC evening news was much more middle of the road than today's Drudge/Huffpost, CNN/Fox and google/reddit (and HN) type ideological bubbles. More straight news.

Are you sure? How can you tell?

I remember when CNN launched. News all day was a novelty; no other TV network was like it. I was a kid, but it did seem to me to be much more conservative (in the sense of not overtly sensational) and "straight" news at the time.

I guess today's CNN and their much more pronounced left-wing orientation is just a response to the right-leaning stuff from Fox? Or it just seems more left-wing now in comparison.

I think it is partly a reflection of increasing polarization in society.

That, and even if journalists are actively attempting to avoid bias the faster news cycle simply leaves them less time for polish. Thus, more and more stories are the equivalent of first or second drafts.

Probably the latter: neutral, unbiased, centrist viewpoints are now given -- by folks throughout the entire spectrum -- a "left" label.

Neutral and unbiased certainly don't describe CNN.

As the OP said, a decade ago you could make that claim. They were much more "news". Now their rating have been in the toilet for years, so they've gone to extremes to gain viewership.

Yeah, I've never heard CNN call for seizing the means of production or soaking the rich in taxes.

CNN mostly only seems "left wing" because America's Overton Window is so far to the right

It's both. There was spin, but there also weren't dedicated propaganda outlets (e.g., Fox News).

You are right, though -- it took a lot of work to get content to a large audience. That reduced the number of malicious agents who could and the speed with which they could successfully gain broad influence.

>>There was spin, but there also weren't dedicated propaganda outlets


While I agree that journalism is in crisis, this isn't the first time. While Hearst was famous for yellow journalism, his papers weren't the only ones, and often the emotional sensationalism was intended to support a particular candidate (or denounce their opponent).

Good point, and thank you. I still think there’s a difference between tabloid journalism and a propaganda platform in scope. On the other hand, it showcases the barrier to entry that used to exist.

Murdoch propaganda press is not a new thing by a long way. Remember Hillsborough.

I agree. Younger people are more likely to have experienced more fake news being revealed as falsified information in many forms, including fake social media accounts, photoshopped images and modified videos. I feel that this induces greater skepticism and awareness of fake news.

Exactly, news outlets are at its core propaganda tools, and regular people simply do not have the ability to verify their reporting.

That being said, mainstream media do tend to care about their reputation, same reason the best liars tend to be careful about what/when to lie.

> It makes sense - they grew up in a time where news was (relatively) reliable/truthful

Many of the elderly become more gullible as they reach advanced age, which is the same reason con-men target them with scams.

Also age causes fatigue and need for emotional response first, which leads to sharing whatever to discuss worrying or angering matter.

Sorta. Propaganda is not a new thing.

No, but I think the parent is correct.

I grew up with the Internet. I was reading wacky conspiracy theories in my teens. It made me more skeptical of virtually anything I see in print since I learned how easy it is to create a BS narrative and fit details into it. I also learned what propaganda is, how it works, and how prevalent it is.

Older generations grew up with a one-way opaque screen preaching to them. Obviously not everything on that screen was true, but when it was called "news" it was held to some standard and so was probably more likely to be true than not. They also had no way of delving deeper, no way of querying or seeking out an alternative opinion or discussing it with other members of the audience.

That generation grew up trusting things on screens.

On the other other hand, I’ve seen a lot of people thinking they can determine the truth by weighing various commentators against each other and deciding which seems more likely, which I’ve just found Isaac Asimov used in Foundation (1951!) to characterise attitudes of decline.

Not sure I’ve noticed a pattern, age or otherwise, with such attitudes.

I think I agree, but you are probably over stating how many of them grew up with television.

Now, the same points generally hold with radio, as well.

I was just saying that propaganda is not new. Of course, I don't know that this research is claiming these folks are the most misinformed. So, I could be taking it in a pointless direction, as well.

Older generations didn't trust things on screens. They cursed at things on screens.

They could and did seek alternative opinions, though often it cost more. Subscribing to newsletters has long been an option. For example, the John Birch Society's TheNewAmerican was created in 1985 as the merger of two older newsletters that date to 1956 and 1965. It's now available at https://www.thenewamerican.com/ but you can still get the print version delivered to your house twice a month.

This is in stark contrast to the evidence of the article.

That some folks from older generations did this, I can accept. But you will need more data than this to counter the facts presented in the article, no?

The facts misconstrued in the article: older people are more likely to spread news found on a set of 21 conservative web sites identified by BuzzFeed.

A better way to interpret those facts: older people lean conservative.

The research showed that political outlook was a far better way to predict sharing these web sites than age or even party affiliation.

Is this just a slant saying that conservatives share more false news? That feels dangerous.

It's something like that. The study picked conservative news sites, then showed that various groups were more or less likely to spread that news. The most obvious finding in the study is that conservatives were more likely to spread this news, but it was also found that old people were more likely to spread it. The article focused on the old people.

Also, politics aside, the younger generation has some sophistication about domain names (which are essentially their news sources) in general.

They know a domain that's been around vs. one like justice-freedom-eagle.usa that looks like a default wordpress template with stock clip art.

They may get their news from aggregators and live in their respective bubbles, but they're more likely to see through a shady looking site with headlines like "Pope endorses Trump" or "Hillary leads Trump away in handcuffs." As much as the respective sides want to believe those things.

> the younger generation has some sophistication about domain names (which are essentially their news sources) in general.

Is that really true though? A lot of the younger folks on my Facebook share stuff from things like "natural-truth-health.net" or "gmo-truth-toxic.tk" or "naturalnews.com".

Yeah, the "natural health" thing is an actual religion these days, and lots of younger people buy into it.

Politics is religion nowadays as well.

It always has been. Quite often very literally.

It makes sense that fewer people who grew up with the internet would be fooled. But there will still be people of every age who lack the sophistication.

Also, the older an American is, the less education they're likely to have received [1].

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/785618/educational-attai...

Well, the fewer years of schooling they are likely to have received. (Full disclosure: 63 years old, two degrees.)

Although the study mentions that older people share more fake news regardless of education.

no mainstream media is really reliable/truthful... you have to watch news from both sides to give you a clue of what the truth is... of course it depends on the subject... they won't lie/distort the truth about 1+1=2 for example.

Do you have a link to the source used to classify some news as fake and other news as real in this paper? How do we know liberal cohorts sources are any more reliable? Eg vox and cnn has a similar type of tilt as breutbart and fox.

Without validating that the definition does not preclude the conclusion I don’t see how we can trust it’s conclusikn.

Not linked to in the verge article for whatever reason, but you can find the study here:


>Posts containing links to external websites are cross-referenced against lists of fake news publishers built by journalists and academics. Here, we mainly use measures constructed by reference to the list by Silverman (7), but in the Supplementary Materials, we show that the main results hold when alternate lists are used, such as that used by peer-reviewed studies (2).

It's domain level, not article. You can follow the links in the paper to see how those groups come up with these lists.

soundwave106 replied in another message with the sources. Buzzfeed seems to be the primary source of the classifications, a far-left organization, so the conclusion is with all likelihood predetermined by politically motivated definitions of fake news.

These are the classification sources according to soundwave106:

A) The primary source was a list of fake news sites compiled by Buzzfeed Media [1]

B) The study was cross-checked with a list of sites from a peer reviewed paper (H. Allcott, M. Gentzkow, Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. J. Econ. Perspect. 31, 211–236 (2017)) and according to the paper was similar to buzzfeed suggesting an ideological tilt.

There is some additional methodology in the study link.

[1] https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/viral-fa...

Do you have any specific examples of bias?

I meant in the list, not for buzzfeed itself.

The claim of the study is that they can investigate prevalence of fake news sharing of different groups, so the concerns is more expansive than that and puts the scientific validity of their conclusions on dubious grounds.

There are four questions that need to be answered:

  1) are the classifications complete over the data set in the study, not an arbitrary different data set

  2) is the populations studied representative of the populuation in general

  3) are the classifications unbiased

  4) are the classification structure sufficiently granular to represent uncertainty

On #1 they did their study on a three-month segments beginning 9 months from election day, while the study by YouGov is over a different set of voluntary users in a different time period.

On #2 the population was chosen by voluntary particiation and I don't see any mention of them doing necessary statistical analysis to make sure it is representative of the general population.

On #3 and #4 buzzfeed said they collected the classifications by searching for fake news of interest to people of their ideological tilt. Some of which is admittedly not fake news, such as hillarys mishandling of government emails:

-- BuzzFeed News used the content analysis tool BuzzSumo, which enables users to search for content by keyword, URL, time range, and social share counts. BuzzFeed News searched in BuzzSumo using keywords such as "Hillary Clinton" and "Donald Trump," as well as combinations such as "Trump and election" or "Clinton and emails" to see the top stories about these topics according to Facebook engagement. We also searched for known viral lies such as "Soros and voting machine."


-- Two of the biggest false hits were a story claiming Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and a hoax claiming the pope endorsed Trump, which the site removed after publication of this article. The only viral false stories during the final three months that were arguably against Trump's interests were a false quote from Mike Pence about Michelle Obama, a false report that Ireland was accepting American "refugees" fleeing Trump, and a hoax claiming RuPaul said he was groped by Trump.

I am sure many other problems could be found if I looked more, but just one of these would put a nail in the coffin of their conclusion and together they just put it on dubious grounds.

[1] https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/viral-fa...

The audience for the Fox News channel skew older heavily and Rupert Murdoch made no secret Fox News was created solely for the purpose of airing a right wing narrative, all facts aside. The article says a bland both sides do it objectivity worthy of NPR then states a 4:1 ratio in GOP/Democratic favouring stories, signficantly almost all of them were to the benefit of Donald Trump in the runup/immediately after the 2016 election.

Here's the study since the article didn't link directly to it: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau4586

Wow, that's bad.

The definition of "fake news" is a list of 21 conservative web sites chosen by BuzzFeed. For some reason, BuzzFeed wasn't in that list.

Unsurprisingly, by that definition, fake news is primarily spread by conservatives! Chart C shows that as the strongest result by far. Chart B, going by age, is a weaker result. Well yes, it seems that conservatives live longer (living less dangerously?) or that people turn conservative as they age. It is well-known that older people lean conservative.

This study is, itself, impressively fake, just like BuzzFeed.

Are you aware that buzzfeed actually has a pretty good news section too?

It doesnt pay well enough, so they also have the clickbait stuff

BuzzFeed is the site that spread the "piss dossier" nonsense. You can't get much more fake than that without invoking aliens and Elvis.

Are you referring to the dossier that a court found was in the public interest to publish because it had so much merit? The same dossier that two presidents were briefed on and was a subject of an active government investigation? That dossier is now, provably, not fake. It seems like you might be unintentionally spreading fake news yourself.


The existence of the dossier itself is provably not fake. The content however is, along with the original story of how it came to be funded, created, and disseminated.

It's not even plausible. The man is a germophobe. He had to overcome a handshake aversion (Where has your hand been today? Eeeew...) to even run for office.

It was trivial for the people in power to brief presidents or start a government investigation, with or without merit, and this leads the court to determine public interest. It's getting to be circular logic here, with merit coming from merit.

You keep saying the content is fake, but again, we've seen various claims made within it prove true over time. Why are you keen on peddling fake news yourself?

The pee tape may or may not be real, almost any intelligence dossier like that is going to contain information across multiple sources some of which may not be correct. This does not invalidate the document as a whole, especially because again, we've seen many claims within it bear fruit over the past few years.

You're making straw man arguments without any proof or substance. Is there anything, articles, quotes, even tweets, anything that shows that the Steel Dossier is fake news? I'll admit that I thought it was unnecessary and possibly fake at the outset, but the data changed my mind. A court ruling, the news that two USA sitting Presidents were briefed on it, and the fact that the people who continue to deny it tell provable lies on a daily basis is a pretty strong set of data to counter the points you are making.

This leads me to the conclusion that you are either 1) uninterested in the facts 2) making your arguments in bad faith or 3) all of the above

In any case, arguing with you will not bring further truth out. Enjoy your day

The burden of proof falls on those who want to believe the claims.

The fact that the dossier is notable (in the public interest to publish) does not mean that the dossier is correct. The court only ruled that the dossier was notable. The fact that presidents were briefed means that the dossier is notable, not that it is correct. The bit about people telling lies... well that is an ad hominem that also doesn't help to satisfy the burden of proof, plus if that were a valid argument then it could be applied to the source of the dossier.

You mean the same dossier that has increasingly had various points of data within it proven true?

I couldnt find any article on buzzfeed regarding that, and neither have I followed that dossier so I cannot comment on that.

Mind sending a few links my way?

the pee tape is real.

Uh oh, you're getting grayed down. Get those critical thoughts out of your head at once and get back onto the reservation.


As a robustness check, we constructed alternate measures using a list curated by Allcott and Gentzkow (2), who combined multiple sources across the political spectrum (including some used by Silverman) to generate a list of fake news stories specifically debunked by fact-checking organizations.


We took this list and removed all domains classified as “hard news” via the supervised learning technique used by Bakshy et al. (23) to focus specifically on fake news domains rather than the more contested category of “hyperpartisan” sites (such as Breitbart).


> that conservatives live longer (living less dangerously?)

or have more money to spend on healthier living (high quality food, high quality entertainment, high quality housing, plus medicine, etc)

The elderly are generally more susceptible to internet fraud. Last summer the New Yorker had this story about how an 85 year old was scammed out of her life savings:

My Mother and Her Scammer https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/my-mother...

Nigerian prince scams and the like are much older than the internet though.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance-fee_scam

This article is a perfect example of the incredibly sloppy and biased thinking that happens in media and which is part of the very problem it talks about.

Fake news first and formost is a clickbait scam to get advertising dollars, NOT a political propaganda approach and this tendency to keep using it as if it's an actual political issue is really absurd and itself an example of what is probably more an example of sloppy news.

Furthermore the insinuation that the older generation somehow is more naive than the young generation in political views only adds to the superficial and naval gazing claims.

You're not accounting for internal and external to the US attempts to manipulate our democracy via social media. The IRA created fake accounts to encourage tribalism and partisan thinking. It's not new for Americans or companies as well, there's been manipulating the web with bots and disinformation ourselves for years. To say it's purely clickbait is to ignore a large amount of evidence that it's also politically motivated.

I didn't say it's purely clickbait I said it mostly clickbait which it is and the reason why it's being used as much as it is.

>Fake news first and formost is a clickbait scam to get advertising dollars, NOT a political propaganda approach and this tendency to keep using it as if it's an actual political issue is really absurd and itself an example of what is probably more an example of sloppy news.

That's a pretty bold assertion. Let me make sure I'm getting this right. According to you, there is not a problem of people creating and spreading lies in order to forward their political agendas?

That sounds like an absurd proposition from you. We can see it almost every single day, especially on platforms like facebook.

By all means. Please show me this new problem that didn't exist before and please show how this is actually convincing people to change their minds about a subject matter.

There is nothing what so ever that makes "fake news" worse than your or mine self-delusional idea of what is true ESPECIALLY in politics which has nothing to do with truth but perspective.

The actual problems with social media platforms like FB and Instagram etc are depression not one group of people living in an echo chamber more than others.

Yes "fake news" can spread faster but so can rebuttals and "real news".

You're completely delusional if you believe this.

If I believe what exactly?

There is some empirical evidence to suggest that younger generations are better at sussing out opinion vs fact than older generations. Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/10/older...

My own pet hypothesis for the larger phenomenon discussed here is this: Younger generations had schooling that attempted to make them "college ready" and part of that college readiness was understanding how to find and cite credible sources, alongside understanding what a "primary source" is. Sure, it didn't stick with everyone, but I do think bits-and-pieces of that are imprinted on Millennials.

Along with that you have many younger people doing white collar "knowledge work" which often involves compiling and synthesizing information from multiple sources and drawing a conclusion. This understanding of "how the sausage is made" carries into media literacy when say, examining an editorial for factual accuracy.

Some evidence of what though? What is the actual consequence? This is exactly the problem i have with that articles claims. Not a single attempt at digging in just a rush to make it about Trump. There is zero evidence that them spreading more fake news have any actual measurable effect beyond the fact that they spread more. Thats not how conclusions are made like those the articly tries to make.

The article I linked talks about a study that has nothing to do with Trump. It just happens to show that older Americans have a harder time telling apart opinion from factual statements. It makes no claim towards conservatives vs liberals.

But if you’re talking about the original article: if older Americans are more likely to spread fake news, and older Americans are more likely to be conservative, it stands to reason that most of the fake news being spread would skew conservative. It’s a function of the audience’s age as opposed to their politics.

I’m sure if you zero’d in on fake news spread by people under 40 it would skew left.

Thats not evidence of anything though.

My hypothesis is that they grew with a notion that "if it is on a newspaper, magazine or a book, it must be true", which was indeed the case when compared to digital content in today's world.

It took me a long discussion to convince my Indian uncle that image of certificate (signed by director general of UNESCO) that he forwarded on WhatsApp, declaring Indian national anthem as the best national anthem in the world, can be created in 10 minutes by anyone these days.

I think it is a little more nuanced. No one takes the tabloids at the grocery store seriously, for instance, and they've been in print forever. But, you'd trust a tabloid story your cousin sent you on facebook to check out. Suddenly you trust that tabloid source since you trust your cousin.

> which was indeed the case when compared to digital content in today's world.

World War 1, World War 2, Cuba, Mexico, the civil war, the Boston masacre, the boston tea party are just a few things we can point some fake and incomplete news to in America.

Overheard during the 2012 campaign in florida, between some octagenerians: I’m voting for that Mitt Romney because he’s a nice Protestant boy, not like the others. (Not that it matters, but Obama was the only Protestant in that race, Biden and Ryan are catholic, Romney is like the most famous Mormon).

They may be aware of all that and still disagree.

Romney: technically, Mormons are protestant

Biden: he isn't a believable Catholic unless he opposes abortion

Obama: he actually slipped up and said "my Muslim faith" in an interview

A almost guarantee that 100% of the people who believe clickbait fake news articles from bogus and untrustworthy sources also have never heard of the scientific method.

I believe that many older people find critical thinking to be taboo, and prefer to take things at face value because they confuse passivity with wisdom. Why question something when someone will come along any minute to make you feel comfortable anyway?

They tend to be wrong when they think independently because they were never any good at critical thinking to begin with, so they just parrot what they were told makes sense. What's going to keep their lives "the same."

This article does a better job than I ever could explaining my reasoning... https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/014616721243921...

> 100% of the people who believe...have never heard of the scientific method

Ludicrous. Smart and educated people fall for scams and join cults.

> many older people find critical thinking to be taboo


> They tend to be wrong when they think independently

You realize everything in our world was built by the generations before us, right? Shoulders of giants and all that?

My mother taught me to be autodidact. She would never answer my questions and instead told me to go get an encyclopedia (It was the 70's) and find out myself. When I spouted ignorance she would correct me.

Now she's widowed. As my father declined with Alzheimer's he tuned into FOX news all day long. Oddly, he became less racist despite this because my wife is black. The more he fell in love with her as his daughter, the better person he became.

My mom still watches FOX news all day long. I know this because my son is living with her right now to help her out and he tells me outrageous stuff she does with her ideas and money. She's a devout Republican now. She hated the Obamas but could never tell me why. She loves Trump, but again she can't tell me why other than she "Likes the way he talks."

Any evidence of truth given to her elicits an "OK" and then she walks away. I have no idea how she went from "always look up the answer for yourself" to believing anything that fits her current worldview as shaped by the television she watches.

The problem is Fox News. They have a cynical disregard for the truth.

Lies are sticky. If you passively listen to lies all day, it will affect even you.

Take an excerpt from this article:


Suppose you hear of a family of four who died after eating at Golden Gate Chinese Restaurant. The authorities investigate, and release the information that food poisoning was not the cause. Do you go out for Chinese tonight?

"The Brainwashing Of My Dad" is a very personal documentary about this effect on the director's father.


I found the documentarian to be more interesting than her subject which was an old white man listening to talk radio that appeals to old white men and agreeing with it. Her old man is just very agreeable having gone from the left to the right to the center seemingly just parroting the news source he's listening to at the time.

The documentarian on the other hand appears to have never listened to Rush Limbaugh before setting out to do this documentary since she knows so little that's non-controversial about the man. Such as his quirk of saying ditto. She seems ro have just decided who he was by osmosis by reading left wing news articles about him. Rather than try to genuinely understand the appeal of right wing radio she just dismisses it as naziesque brainwashing. The way she belittles her father while not appreciating the narrow range of political thought she has exposed herself to is just so incredibly smug and oblivious.

This documentary in a nutshell is what is wrong with political discourse.

Then again, people older than 65 share the most stuff period, if my relatives are any indication.

Long before there was Facebook, back in the age of AOL, my older relatives would share endless e-mails about things they thought were funny.

It seems like anything about Viagra would get a laugh.

Age was apparently a better predictor than total number of links shared, according to the article.

Maybe older people share disproportionately more news content? I tried to look at the study to find out what kind of links they even included in the evaluation, but the link in TFA only goes to the publication's home page.

Edit: it's here http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau4586

Edit': as I thought, their dataset includes all kinds of links, but they do the same analysis for sharing hard news and don't find significant age effects. It's table S14 in the supplementary material http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2019/01/07/5.1....

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