Young people are just as likely to spread misinformation as anybody else | Column | Columns | Opinion | Daily Collegian | #Education


The abundance of social media and ever-increasing apps and websites have made it easy to spread and digest information.

Whether it be a mom with a dozen followers, a student with a thousand followers or a celebrity with over a million fans, sharing articles and posts has a massive influence on socialization.

There are plenty of positives in sharing posts. Info regarding when concerts take place, when voting starts and new restaurants opening in the community are all helpful and beneficial.

With the ability to share being so seamless and simple, misinformation can enter every type of conversation.

While misinformation may have a different meaning for some, it’s defined as false or inaccurate information. Intent behind spreading misinformation is not usually on purpose to deceive but rather just from a lack of knowledge or understanding.

Recently, it seems misinformation has been all over, whether it be about the coronavirus vaccine or election results.

It’s easy to identify misinformation that the crazy aunt and uncle at the family reunion or the man using a close-up selfie with sunglasses on as his Facebook profile photo spreads, but young people are just as susceptible to spreading misinformation as anyone else.

In July 2020, amid the debate over schools reopening in the fall, a false quote was attributed to former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

It was claimed that DeVos said “‘only’ .02% of kids are likely to die when they go back to school during the pandemic.”

Not only was the tweet retweeted nearly 70,000 times, but I saw multiple of my friends repost this quote on their stories on Instagram and Snapchat.

The thing is, DeVos never said that quote. It was misinformation shared, which resulted in dozens of young people, who are statistically unlikely to support the former administration, to jump on and share without doing their own research.

Was DeVos, who was not a former educator, qualified or fit to be the secretary of education? Not at all. Does it mean young people should falsely attribute and share quotes that aren’t true about her? No, they shouldn’t.

Another example of young people spreading fake news on social media has been the sharing of false statistics and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve seen dozens of people I follow share tweets claiming 99.9% of all people with coronavirus survive or repost never published information purporting to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating survival rates for the pandemic.

Even more, I’ve seen some posts claim only 6% of all coronavirus deaths were actually caused by the disease. This claim originated from a conspiracy theorist account and, former President Donald Trump retweeted it.

I’ve witnessed a fair amount of Penn State students, both friends and acquaintances, share these false and unbacked statistics. In reality, about 1.6% of Americans who’ve been infected with coronavirus have died, a much different statistic than 0.01% — a statistic that represents so many lives, loved ones and family members.

This 6% number shared around actually referred to 6% of coronavirus cases resulting in death only had coronavirus listed as cause of death, while the other 94% of deaths listed the disease and various conditions it can cause, such as respiratory failure.

If you were to die of pneumonia that you developed while infected with the coronavirus and died from such, how should that not count as a coronavirus-related death? The pneumonia wouldn’t have developed without the coronavirus present.

Fighting off misinformation isn’t easy. Sources previously thought of as reliable may not be considered reliable anymore by some. False posts are easy to share and prone to fool people.

Whatever the case may be, it’s clear young people are just as capable — and guilty — of sharing and diffusing fake news throughout all mediums. It’s everyone’s responsibility to fact check anything they come across and commit to ensuring they share truthful information.

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