Thai minister: The elderly are the biggest culprits when it comes to fake news

Everyone has been on the receiving end of one of those ludicrous, scarcely-believable messages that have clearly been forwarded from an unreliable source. And when you open the forwarded link or read through the message, you realise–without a shadow of a doubt—that the news is absolutely bogus. 

But that’s essentially one of the ways that fake news is spread, with the apparent authenticity of the news seemingly growing as more people share, forward, or post the news on social media platforms. To combat this, Thailand actually set up an “anti-fake news centre” earlier this year, with an emphasis on misinformation about disasters and financial matters.

And based on information that the centre has gathered, the Digital Economy and Society Minister of Thailand has reportedly said that the elderly are the biggest spreaders of fake news in Thailand. 

The “elderly” segment is made up of people aged 60 and over, although the minister caveats this by saying that the elderly are spreading fake news out of concern for those close to them.

The issue isn’t limited to Thailand

However, others have also come to similar conclusions in different countries or regions. A study conducted by researchers at Princeton also found that American internet users above the age of 65 are more likely to share fake news on Facebook. 

The research was done with the aim of discovering the effect of fake news on the 2016 U.S. presidential election—interestingly, there was no correlation between propensity for sharing fake news and education, income and gender. 

“If seniors are more likely to share fake news than younger people, then there are important implications for how we might design interventions to reduce the spread of fake news.”

– Andrew Guess, assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

There have also been similar reports in Nigeria, and with messaging app, WhatsApp the preferred medium of choice there. Perhaps this indicative of a wider problem in general: digital literacy.

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It could be argued that the issue is primarily caused by digital literacy of the older generation, with late adoption meaning that certain users are less familiar with the intricacies of a social media system/platform.

Malaysians, for their part, have been making moves to prepare the country’s workforce for IR4.0, with incentives and moves taken during Budget 2020 to digitalise various industries. As for fake news, the Anti Fake News Act is set to be abolished soon, although many have argued that the purpose of that particular piece of legislation was politically-motivated.

Meanwhile, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh has also said that the Malaysian government is also looking into the idea of having a “fact-checker” system to curb the issue of fake news. 

But for now, perhaps we are in a period of transition. It seems that a large part of the problem is a lack of awareness—by the older generation primarily—on what constitutes genuine or fake news.