Serving the High Plains

Take time to learn how to spot fake news

If it’s on Facebook, it must be true. Right? Wrong. Even though the social media giant has said it’s taking steps to monitor fake news stories, the proliferation of such stories makes it unlikely they’ll be squelched.

Older Americans may be more vulnerable to accepting fake news as fact and sharing that false or misleading article.

A 2019 study showed fake news is more likely to be shared by older Americans on Facebook than younger counterparts. Older Americans vote more often than younger people, so the impact of false news is magnified when it’s election time.

Most fake news is easy to spot, with the right tools. Senior centers, community centers and libraries would do a great service by offering regular courses on spotting fake news.

Such courses have been offered in the past, and with a presidential election coming up, now is the time to work on eradicating the influence of fake news. Several websites also offer tips on spotting fake news, so if a class isn’t available, people should educate themselves.

The 2019 study examining the sharing of false news stories on Facebook was published in the journal Science Advances. It found that Facebook users age 65 and older shared fake news about seven times more than those under 29. Those numbers almost certainly extrapolates to other social media sites, although Facebook is the favorite site of older social media users.

For purposes of the study, fake news was defined as false or misleading content “dressed up” to look like a news article.

There may be another reason younger users don’t share as much fake news on Facebook. Facebook has been losing younger users who find other social media more to their tastes, sites such as Snapchat and Instagram.

The Harvard Summer School website has a page of tips for spotting a fake news story. It includes links to several fact-checking sites. A quick trip to can also check a specific story. Many stories sound plausible or contain half truths. Snopes can debunk them.

No matter which candidates someone supports, votes influenced by fake news are a danger.

People also should be aware of how their own biases affect the likelihood that they’ll accept a false news story as the truth simply because they agree with it.

It’s important that these courses be made available on a regular basis.

Make good decisions at the ballot box and when you’re sharing stories on Facebook and other social media sites. Learn to spot fake news.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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