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The Future Of The Internet Is Old People

There will soon be more people aged 65 and up in the US than in any other demographic, and it will stay that way for decades.

Posted on April 4, 2019, at 11:44 a.m. ET

Greg Kahn for BuzzFeed News

This is the latest edition of the Fake Newsletter from BuzzFeed News. Subscribe here.

There will soon be more people aged 65 and up in the US than in any other demographic, and it will stay that way for decades. I’ve spent months collecting data on the online habits of older people, with a particular focus on how they interact with false content. I just published a new story that dives into this. Here are some of the most compelling points:

  • Four recent studies found that those over 65 are more likely to consume and share fake news on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and the web.

  • They don’t have a good understanding of the role algorithms play in determining what content we see online.

  • They have a harder time differentiating between news and opinion.

  • They are often targeted with ads from hyperpartisan and fake news sites.

  • They’re also targeted by online scams, malware, and other internet ills. Just last month, the Department of Justice announced “the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.”

And here’s another key data point: There has been a flowering of interest and funding for digital literacy programs — but few, if any, are targeting older people. Kids in school are getting lessons, but our parents and grandparents are being left out.

This isn’t to pick on older adults. It’s to highlight the fact that so many of us struggle in the new and chaotic information environment. We need to think broader than just programs in schools. It also means we need to be ready to support huge numbers of seniors as they become a force on the internet for decades to come.


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