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A new study has confirmed that Facebook users over 65 were the most likely to share and spread 'fake news' stories during the 2016 presidential election. As older generations become more digitally literate, should greater care be given to teaching skills to help identify fake news?

While Facebook already has measures in place to limit the posting and sharing of 'fake news' on the site, it is undeniable that the 2016 U.S. presidential election was influenced by intense social media coverage. The internet is now littered with factually suspect journalism and clickbait. This enables the added distortion of true stories being derided as 'fake news' by those who don't like them.

The study, conducted by researchers from Princeton University and New York University, suggested that the trend of sharing fake news could be due to the cognitive and social psychology of ageing, meaning that the brain may be weakened when it comes to distinguishing facts from fiction.

However, this trend could also be attributed to the the greater number of people over 65 who are developing digital skills and joining social media, and their historical relationship to somewhat more credible news and media organisations. 

This begs the question, should greater focus be given to the development and maintenance of real life digital skills, such as identifying fake news, scams and phishing schemes when helping people become digitally literate, or does this affect their dignity of risk in participating and sharing in the public sphere?

With 1 in 5 Australians not online, could digital inclusion programs increase the number of people being tricked or scammed who previously did not participate in the digital space?

The question is a complex one, and requires serious consideration by those promoting digital inclusion for this demographic. 

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