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Few Share Fake News; Those Who Do Are Mostly Older Republicans

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Facebook users 65 and up and self-described Republicans were the most likely group to share fake news, according to new research. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Facebook users 66 and up and self-described Republicans were the most likely group to share fake news, according to new research. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers combing through survey respondents’ Facebook data have determined that only about one in 10 users shared articles from fake news domains during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and even fewer shared more than one article. Individuals who did share fake news were more likely to be both self-described Republicans and 66 or older.

Politicians and civilians alike have expressed concern over the apparent rise of fake news — false information presented in the guise of a legitimate news article — over the past few years. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in particular, these kinds of false news stories flooded Facebook and other social media platforms, raising concerns about their influence on voters.

To better understand how many people shared links to fake news, and the demographics of those who did, researchers sent an online survey to Facebook users during the campaign. More than 1,300 respondents allowed the team to access their Facebook profile data and chart their sharing history during the year. Researchers then compared the domains of the links shared with a list of known fake news sites.

Ninety Percent Plus Just Said No

According to the results of their analysis, 91.5 percent of study participants did not share any links to fake news generated by those sites. Of the 10 percent who did, more than half shared only one faux article.

Individuals who shared sketchy stories were more than twice as likely to be self-identified Republicans than Democrats (38 Republicans compared with 17 Democrats). The disparity becomes even more significant when viewed more broadly: Of all survey respondents who allowed researchers to track their sharing history, 18.1 percent of Republican respondents and 3.5 percent of Democrats spread at least one fake news story.

Independents, who comprised a smaller segment of respondents, were also more likely to share fake news than Democrats.

Respondents who were 66 and older were seven times more likely to share fake news than participants who were 18-29 years old. The older set was also nearly three times more likely to spread the fake stories than individuals in the 45-65 age range.

Teach Them Well

The researchers concluded that additional work needs to be done to understand how older people in particular evaluate material on social media platforms and whether their greater likelihood of sharing fake news is due to unfamiliarity with the medium or can be linked to age-related cognitive issues, including memory.

The authors also suggested developing educational methods to improve media literacy and help users of all ages determine the veracity of a story before they click “share.”

The paper’s scope was limited in a number of ways. Only links to domains on a curated list of fake sites were considered fake news, for example. Participants also strongly self-selected: Only half of the survey respondents allowed the researchers to access their sharing history, a crucial part of the study.

The research appears today in Science Advances.

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Ecology

Globe Climate: Canada’s resource reckoning is coming

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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

This afternoon, the Alberta government announced that it is restoring a coal mining policy it revoked last spring. At the time, the move provoked a widespread public backlash detailed by The Globe. The original decision, which opened up more than 1.4 million hectares to exploration, was made without public consultation. Premier Jason Kenney previously defended the changes.

Lots more on coal and Canada’s resources industry in this week’s newsletter edition.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Ecology

‘Incredibly destructive’: Canada’s Prairies to see devastating impact of climate change

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As the climate continues to warm at an alarming rate, experts warn if dramatic steps to mitigate global warming are not taken, the effects in Canada’s Prairie region will be devastating to the country’s agriculture sector.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country is warming, on average, about double the global rate.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. recently found 2020 was earth’s second-hottest year on record, with the average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe at 0.98 of a degree C above the 20th-century average.

However, the agency found the northern hemisphere saw its hottest year on record, at 1.28 degrees C above the average.

“(In Canada) we are looking at about 6.4C degrees of warming this century, which isn’t much less than one degree per decade, which is just a terrifying rate of warming,” Darrin Qualman, the director of climate crisis policy and action at the National Farmer’s Union said.

Qualman said there is “massive change coming” to Canada’s Prairies, which will be “incredibly destructive.”

“It’s not going too far to say that if we made that happen, parts of the Prairies wouldn’t be farmable anymore,” he said.

According to the federal government, in 2018 Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system generated $143 billion, accounting for 7.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The sector employed 2.3 million people in 2018. The majority of the 64.2 million hectares of farmland in Canada is concentrated in the Prairies and in southern Ontario.

The effects of climate change are already being felt on the ground in the Prairies, Qualman said, adding that the NFU has already heard from farmers complaining of “challenging weather.”

“People are sharing pictures of flattened crops and buildings, et cetera, that have been damaged,” he said. “And we’re still at the beginning of this.”

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Ecology

Insect-based dog food aims to cut your pet’s carbon pawprint

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Meat has an enormous carbon footprint, with livestock liable for about 15 per cent of worldwide emissions, as we have beforehand mentioned on this e-newsletter. That is prompted specialists to suggest consuming much less meat for sustainability (and well being) causes.

However what about your pet? One research discovered that the methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated by canine and cat meals within the U.S. alone had been equal to about 64 million tonnes of CO2, or roughly the quantity produced by 13.6 million automobiles. And it might be getting worse, with a development towards feeding pets “human-grade” meat.

That is prompted some pet meals makers to look to lower-carbon protein sources — together with bugs.

Research present that producing insect-based meals requires far much less feed, land and water and generates far fewer greenhouse fuel emissions per kilogram than meats comparable to beef, pork or rooster.

That is one of many causes increasingly more pet meals containing insect protein are hitting the market. Purina, a model owned by multinational Nestlé, launched a line of canine and cat meals containing black soldier fly larvae in Switzerland in November.

In Canada, Montreal-based Wilder Harrier began promoting canine treats made with cricket protein in 2015 and pet food made with black soldier fly larvae in 2019. It plans to broaden to launch a line of insect-based cat treats later this yr and cat meals in 2022 due to “a ton of demand,” mentioned firm co-founder Philippe Poirier.

Wilder Harrier initially labored with animal nutritionists on insect-based merchandise to unravel a unique downside — specifically, the founders’ canines had allergy symptoms to frequent meats utilized in canine meals. Poirier mentioned now about half its prospects hunt down the product due to their pets’ allergy symptoms and about half for environmental causes.

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a U.S.-based veterinary nutritionist licensed by the American School of Veterinary Vitamin, has written concerning the environmental influence of pet meals. She mentioned we’re typically “not as involved as we probably ought to [be]” concerning the environmental footprint of pets.

Alternatively, she famous that the longer-term influence of newer diets, comparable to vegan meals and people containing bugs, hasn’t been nicely examined in comparison with conventional pet meals.

Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor of animal sciences on the College of Illinois who research novel proteins for pet meals (together with bugs, yeast and plant-based substances), mentioned such substances are rigorously examined to find out their security and diet earlier than being added to pet meals. 

“This can be a very extremely regulated trade,” she mentioned, however admitted it is also evolving.

Relating to bugs, she mentioned constructive information “reveals promise in direction of utilizing them increasingly more in pet meals.” Insect-based proteins have additionally earned the endorsement of the British Veterinary Affiliation, which says some insect-based meals could also be higher for pets than prime steak.

However Godoy famous that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all resolution, and pet homeowners ought to take into consideration the wants of their very own particular person pet and analysis whether or not a specific weight loss plan can be appropriate.

She mentioned that other than the kind of protein, issues like packaging and manufacturing strategies may also make a distinction. For instance, utilizing meat byproducts that may in any other case turn into waste would not drive elevated meat manufacturing the identical approach as utilizing human-grade meat.

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