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Baby boomers more likely to share fake news on Facebook, study finds

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Fake NewsMitchell Layton/Getty Images

  • A new study by researchers at Princeton and New York University found that people over 65 years old were far more likely to share intentionally false or misleading information on Facebook than all other adults.
  • Researchers looked at Facebook posts leading up to the 2016 presidential election and after, checking them for popular news domains known for spreading disinformation.
  • The study did find, however, that the practice of sharing so-called fake news was fairly rare in general.

A recently published study found that Facebook users over 65 years old were far more likely than other adults to share disinformation on social media.

Researchers at both Princeton and New York University concluded that though the practice of spreading so-called fake news was rare overall, a person’s likelihood of sharing it correlated more strongly with age than it did education, sex, or political views.

“No other demographic characteristic seems to have a consistent effect on sharing fake news, making our age finding that much more notable,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in Science Advances on Thursday.

Researchers commissioned an online sample of 3,500 people — not all of them Facebook users — with the goal of seeing which characteristics were associated with sharing disinformation on Facebook around the November 2016 US elections.

The researchers defined fake news as “knowingly false or misleading content created largely for the purpose of generating ad revenue.” While that aligns with the original meaning of the phrase that sprang up ahead of the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump has more often used it to refer to reputable news organizations he doesn’t like.

Of those who said they used Facebook, only 49% agreed to share any profile data. Of those users, people older than 65 captured the researchers’ attention.

Eleven percent of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study’s definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same. The study drew its list of “fake news domains” from a list assembled by the journalist Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed News.

Andrew Guess, a coauthor of the study and a political scientist at Princeton University, told The Verge that the findings were not as obvious as some people might think.

“For me, what is pretty striking is that the relationship holds even when you control for party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “The fact that it’s independent of these other traits is pretty surprising to me. It’s not just being driven by older people being more conservative.”

The study did also find that, of those participating in the study, Republicans shared more links to sites peddling disinformation than Democrats, but “self-described independents” shared roughly the same number of those sites as Republicans.

The study’s conclusion, that people 65 years and older share most of the intentionally false or misleading news we see on social media, could be helpful for social networks in deciphering how to tackle the spread of disinformation.

The study’s authors also said more context was needed, since the oldest generation may not have a “level of digital media literacy necessary to reliably determine the trustworthiness of news encountered online.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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