No one is free of falling for false news. No one. Neither information professionals nor someone who reads all the headers in the morning. Believing yourself a fake news or fake new is difficult due to the how fast we consume information. What’s more, fake news appeals precisely to our prejudice or, if published in a traditional medium, it takes advantage of the trust that we have in that environment.
Previously I have spoken of the efforts that are made from educational areas to raise awareness among the younger population and educate them to be consumers of information active and critical. But those tips they serve for everyone.
The older audience is also a focus affected by fake news. Although it is an age range that always has been considered technophobic, many of them have internet access through smartphones and tablets. And although they do not handle themselves with the same ease as their grandchildren, nothing prevents them from being Internet users and being familiar with WhatsApp, Facebook or YouTube.
In the United States, for example, 7 out of 10 people from between 50 and 64 years They have a Facebook profile. And 6 out of 10 of over 65 years they spend time on Facebook. And I quote Facebook because it is one of the pillars of spreading fake news. Although it has incorporated new measures to combat it, dealing with the constant covert advertising campaigns that turn out to be political propaganda is not easy.
But in the face of disinformation, the best tool is education. Learn to spot fake news. In the case of older peopleAn interesting project is the workshop titled How to Spot Fake News. Promoted by Senior planet, is being held in different US cities and its target audience is older people, a very relevant portion of the population in any electoral process.
Fact checking citizen
Along with the expression fake news, after a while the expression fact checking, its nemesis, became popular. The first corresponds to the expression fake news, while the second refers to something as natural as check the facts.
Checking the facts is something they teach in journalism schools. But the speed with which you have to publish information or the interest of a medium to publish certain news means that this very basic task not fulfilled.
Luckily, anyone can check the veracity of a news. Precisely, the internet is a tool that facilitates this task, since brings us closer to the original sources and to official documents and announcements.
In the aforementioned workshop, his assistants use fact checking sources such as Snopes or FactCheck, two reference and non-profit portals that review the most disseminated information and indicate which part is true and which part is wrong. In small groups, news items that have been spread over the internet are analyzed to find out which part is correct and find hoaxes or inconsistencies.
Normally, checking whether a news item is true or false does not consume more than a minute or two. The problem is that spend those minutes We consider all the headlines we read to be a waste of time, but in return we will stop disseminating interested or directly incorrect information. And sometimes, the headline is so juicy that we do not consider it to be false news.
The reason why a workshop like How to Spot Fake News was designed for people over 65 is due to studies such as those carried out by the universities of Princeton and New York. One of them, published in June 2019, indicated that Facebook users of over 65 years were likely to share more fake news than users of under 29 years. Specifically, the difference was 7 to 1.
Although the study does not go into analyzing the ultimate reason for this data, perhaps because older people are more interested in political information that the younger ones or maybe for the ideological differences between each other, since disinformation usually focuses on certain prejudices and preconceptions. The fact is that older people spread more fake news, simply, because they have not been instructed in fact checking.
The media outlet NPR gives us some clues about the reasons that lead those over 65 to spread false news. According to researcher Susan Nash of the Stanford UniversityOne of the reasons is that as we age, our way of thinking becomes more and more established, making it difficult to doubt information that fits our mental axis. That is, it is easier for you to doubt a headline than contradicts your ideas than one that confirms them.
Another factor is the isolation. Over the years, people tend to withdraw, involuntarily on many occasions. This makes it difficult to compare information with other people and induces to spread news without having analyzed it carefully. NPR underlines the importance of this with one fact: according to the United States census, sooner rather than later, the main age group in this country will be over 65 years.
It affects us all
Breaking a spear in his favor, this does not mean that the misnamed digital natives get rid of the fake news. What’s more, there are studies that do not leave them in a good place either and that warn that minors they don’t know how to differentiate a notice of an opinion.
Specifically, a 2019 study indicated that in the United States, only 13.5% of 15-year-olds were able to discern what information was and what opinion. In the UK, that figure was down to 11.5%. The study was carried out by the OECD based on its PISA reports that evaluate students from all over the world. In addition to assessing math and language skills in literacy, they introduced tests to examine the reading comprehension.
As always when we talk about fake news, the best tool against them is the active and critical consumption of information, both in those news that contradict our values and, especially, in those that reinforce them.