The Misinformation Paradox


older adults


How to Cite

Munyaka, I., Hargittai, E. . ., & Redmiles, E. (2022). The Misinformation Paradox: Older Adults are Cynical about News Media, but Engage with It Anyway. Journal of Online Trust and Safety, 1(4).


Misinformation can be easily spread with the click of a button, but can cause irreversible harm and negatively impact news consumers’ ability to discern false information. Some prior work suggests that older adults may engage with (read, share, or believe) misinformation at higher rates than others. However, engagement explanations vary. In an effort to understand older adults' engagement with misinformation better, we investigate the misinformation experiences of older adults through their perception of prior media experiences. Analyzing 69 semi-structured interviews with adults ages 59+ from the US, the Netherlands, Bosnia, and Turkey, we find that people who have decades of potential exposure or experience with both online and traditional news media have reached a state of media cynicism in which they distrust most, or even all, of the news they receive. Yet, despite this media cynicism, the older adults we study rarely fact-check the media they see and continue to read and share news they distrust. These findings suggest that this paradoxical reaction to media cynicism, in addition to prior explanations such as cognitive issues and digital literacy, may in part explain older adults' engagement with misinformation. Thus, we introduce the misinformation paradox, an additional area of research worth exploring.
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