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Elderly And Conservatives Shared More Fake News On Facebook in 2016

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Deb Roy, a former Twitter chief media scientist, said the problem is that the American news diet is "full of balkanized narratives"

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Facebook, Fake News
Facebook 'tricked' kids, parents to spend money on 'free' games: Report. VOA

People over 65 and ultraconservatives shared about seven times more fake information masquerading as news on Facebook than younger adults, moderates and super liberals during the 2016 election season, a new study found.

The first major study to look at who is sharing links from debunked sites found that not many people were doing it. On average, only 8.5 percent of those studied — about 1 person out of 12 — shared false information during the 2016 campaign, according to the study in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Science Advances. But those doing it tended to be older and more conservative.

“For something to be viral, you’ve got to know who shares it,” said study co-author Jonathan Nagler, a politics professor and co-director of the Social Media and Political Participation Lab at New York University. “Wow, old people are much more likely than young people to do this.”

Battling back

Facebook and other social media companies were caught off guard in 2016 when Russian agents exploited their platforms to meddle with the U.S. presidential election by spreading fake news, impersonating Americans and running targeted advertisements to try to sway votes. Since then, the companies have thrown millions of dollars and thousands of people into fighting false information.

Facebook, fake news
This Nov. 1, 2017, photo shows prints of some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and stir up tensions around divisive social issues, released by members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, in Washington. According to a study published Jan. 9, 2019, in Science Advances, people over 65 and conservatives shared far more false information in 2016 on Facebook than others. VOA

Researchers at Princeton University and NYU in 2016 interviewed 2,711 people who used Facebook. Of those, nearly half agreed to share all their postings with the professors.

The researchers used three different lists of false information sites — one compiled by BuzzFeed and two others from academic research teams — and counted how often people shared from those sites. Then to double check, they looked at 897 specific articles that had been found false by fact checkers and saw how often those were spread.

All those lists showed similar trends.

When other demographic factors and overall posting tendencies are factored in, the average person older than 65 shared seven times more false information than those between 18 and 29. The seniors shared more than twice as many fake stories as people between 45 and 64 and more than three times that of people in the 30-to-44-year-old range, said lead study author Andrew Guess, a politics professor at Princeton.

The simplest theory for why older people share more false information is a lack of “digital literacy,” said study co-author Joshua Tucker, also co-director of the NYU social media political lab. Senior citizens may not tell truth from lies on social networks as easily as others, the researchers said.

Facebook, Fake News
A user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. Facebook has made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others are less likely to see them. VOA

Signaling identity

Harvard public policy and communication professor Matthew Baum, who was not part of the study but praised it, said he thought sharing false information was “less about beliefs in the facts of a story than about signaling one’s partisan identity.” That’s why efforts to correct fakery don’t really change attitudes and one reason why few people share false information, he said.

When other demographics and posting practices are factored in, people who called themselves very conservative shared the most false information, a bit more than those who identified themselves as conservative. The very conservatives shared misinformation 6.8 times more often than the very liberals and 6.7 times more than moderates. People who called themselves liberals essentially shared no fake stories, Guess said.

Nagler said he was not surprised that conservatives in 2016 shared more fake information, but he and his colleagues said that did not necessarily mean that conservatives are by nature more gullible when it comes to false stories. It could simply reflect that there was much more pro-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton false information in circulation in 2016 that it drove the numbers for sharing, they said.

However, Baum said in an email that conservatives post more false information because they tend to be more extreme, with less ideological variation than their liberal counterparts and they take their lead from Trump, who “advocates, supports, shares and produces fake news/misinformation on a regular basis.”

Facebook, social media
Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this illustration. VOA

The researchers looked at differences in gender, race and income but could not find any statistically significant differences in sharing of false information.

Improvements

After much criticism, Facebook made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others were less likely to see them. It seems to be working, Guess said. Facebook officials declined to comment.

Also Read: EU Authorities Direct Tech Giants To Submit Reports Regarding ‘Fake News’

“I think if we were to run this study again, we might not get the same results,” Guess said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Deb Roy, a former Twitter chief media scientist, said the problem is that the American news diet is “full of balkanized narratives” with people seeking information that they agree with and calling true news that they don’t agree with fake.

“What a mess,” Roy said. (VOA)

Next Story

No one Would Buy a Huawei Smartphone Sans Google or Facebook

Despite all this, there is no respite seen for Huawei in the near future and the company is likely to witness its smartphone business dwindle

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facebook, huawei
FILE - A member of the media tries out new Huawei Honor 20 series of phones following their global launch in London, UK, May 21, 2019. VOA

By Nishant Arora

Be honest and ask yourself: Would you buy a smartphone that neither supports Android operating system and Google apps nor comes pre-installed with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram? This is the scenario which Huawei (and its sub-brand Honor) smartphones stare at in the near future – and an imminent fall if the issue does not get resolved in the next one-two quarters.

Although the Chinese communications giant aims to launch its own operating system called “Hongmeng” to replace the Android OS on its smartphones but ‘abhi Dilli door hai’ as the OS has to see the light of the day and then users’ approval, which is the most critical part.

The absence of apps like Facebook or WhatsApp that truly define user experiences is a double whammy for Huawei.

Currently the second largest smartphone player in the world (powered by stupendous growth in non-US regions like Europe and Asia), Huawei has sensed the tough road ahead. A recent report in Nikkei Asian Review claimed that Huawei has “downgraded its forecast for total smartphone shipments in the second half of 2019 by about 20 per cent to 30 per cent from the previous estimate”.

According to Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Devices and Ecosystem, India and South Asia, IDC, almost half of Huawei’s smartphone volumes come from outside China with its wide smartphone portfolio which runs on Android with Google Mobile Services (GMS) – a collection of Google applications and application programming interfaces (APIs) that help support functionality across devices.

“China has its own ecosystem of apps which are hugely popular but only in China. Outside it, almost all popular Android apps are from Google or from US-based companies. These apps are the heart of experience of any smartphone user these days,” Singh told IANS.

“Without these apps present on its own OS, it will be very very tough for Huawei to pull in demand for its phones running on its own OS,” he added.

Sandwiched between the ongoing US-China trade war, Chinese telecom equipment major Huawei is frantically looking to salvage its prestige and fast cover the lost ground.

The company is also looking at the Indian smartphone market which has touched 450 million smartphone users and has a great potential to grow.

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

“In India, they have never been really able to scale up to be a major player. But considering the growth potential in India, the decision by Google and Facebook has put a spanner in the Huawei’s possible aggressive plans for the country as the next growth market in next two-three years outside of China,” Singh told IANS.

Huawei pipped Apple as the second largest smartphone seller in the first quarter of 2019 after Samsung. It clocked 17 per cent market share in the global smartphone market, according to Counterpoint Research.

The Chinese tech giant, meanwhile, has denied reports that it has cut down smartphone manufacturing.

The company, however, is reassessing its target to become the world’s top-selling smartphone vendor by 2020, after the US trade ban was put in place.

On May 15, US President Donald Trump effectively banned Huawei with a national security order.

Huawei has filed a motion in a US court challenging the constitutionality of the US President Donald Trump’s order to ban it.

Also Read- Samsung Galaxy M40 Tech Review: Stunning Display, Better Chipset

According to reports, Google has also discussed with the US government about an exemption from the Huawei ban, saying it is bad for the company’s technology business.

Despite all this, there is no respite seen for Huawei in the near future and the company is likely to witness its smartphone business dwindle.

Unless, a miracle happens. (IANS)