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Gen Z are lessening the flow of fake news

Younger social media users are less likely to spread misinformation than their parents according to new research, which could help to slow fake news.

Gen Z are able to detect misinformation and dodgy articles much better than older generations, new expert polling suggests.

This shouldn’t be surprising given that teens and young adults understand the nuances of most social media platforms inside out.  This is reflected in their behaviour online, with one study from Science Advances reporting that baby boomers share nearly seven times more fake news articles on Facebook than those aged between 18 and 29.

In other words, Gen Z seem to be able to understand the context of online content far better than older generations and approach news with scepticism and distrust. Misinformation and virtual echo chambers have caused significant upset to our politics in the last few years – and it continues to be a pertinent issue even now.

Why does this matter?

Fake news isn’t going to go away, but experts predict that it’ll be better understood and less impactful as Gen Z populate a larger portion of the voting demographic. You’ll be less likely to see your Facebook feed clogged up with questionable news columns in a few decades, though if we’re all still actually checking Facebook by then I will be shocked.

83% of Gen Z college students that were surveyed said their news comes from social media or online news sites, but only 7% thought social media was the most trustworthy news platform. That means plenty of us are reading about current affairs via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, but very few young people see it as consistently credible.

Online newspapers like The Guardian and BBC News are still in favour though, with more than half saying they found them to be the most reliable option. Gen Z seem confident in their ability to detect when a news story is bogus too, with 69% saying they found it very easy – and over half said they think its harder for older people.

As well as being able to decipher real from fiction, Gen Z also demonstrate a greater understanding of the algorithms and recommendation systems on social media apps. They’re able to engage with likes, comments, and shares in a way that deliberately alters their feed.

I’m sure you’ve done it yourself, following and engaging with creators that you genuinely like, knowing that it’ll produce related content and profiles to follow. 46% of college students said they intentionally do this, and many older generations don’t fully understand how these metrics are used to create the content they see.

Ultimately, it seems clear that Gen Z are the best generation at fully grasping how social media content is brought to their screens, and can use that information to create social change and conversation that benefits them. We’ve already seen this happening in the last few years – and it’s only set to increase.

How are Gen Z using these behaviours to channel change online?

Change is now happening via social channels like TikTok, where K-pop fans recently promoted a campaign to reserve tickets for Trump’s Tulsa rally. They bought a huge bulk and then never attended, leaving hundreds of chairs empty.

Elsewhere, many young Instagram users were encouraging friends and family to stop using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag earlier this year to avoid clogging up the feed. Gen Z also heavily pushed for reform via petitions, fundraisers, and educational sites, using #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd and #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor to keep the protests at the forefront of the zeitgeist.

Trends like these will be more common over the next few years as Gen Z gain more political awareness and take their voices to the voting booths. I for one am eager to see the recent rise in nationalist tendencies and right-wing leaders die down, and I’m hoping that a diminish in fake news and its influence could bring the changes needed.

Fingers crossed for now.