Google: How Different Generations Verify Information, Think About Misinformation

Google released findings on Thursday from a survey conducted with the Poynter Institute, MediaWise, and YouGov focused on how different generations verify information online and what they think about the challenge of misinformation.

The data shows that Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X feel slightly more confident in identifying false or misleading information than Baby Boomers and the Silent generation. Overall, 32% said they feel somewhat confident they could identify false or misleading information.

The group surveyed more than 8,500 respondents of various ages in the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, India and Japan, asking a range of questions aimed at assessing information literacy skills and verification habits. The questions were fielded from June 27 through July 20, 2022, and range from the tools and techniques someone uses to investigating a post they see online, to the reasons why they may have shared misleading information in the past.



The findings suggest 62% of respondents think they see false or misleading information online every week, but in the U.S., the U.K., Brazil and Nigeria, respondents are more likely to say they see false or misleading information daily compared to India, Germany and Japan.

Across generations, respondents are most likely to verify information they see on search engines and messaging apps.

Forty-four percent of respondents say when they see information on a search engine like Google or Bing, they attempt to verify articles, posts, images, videos or other information before sharing, vs, some 39% who say do this when using a messaging app such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal, and 36% who do so when using Facebook. Snapchat is the least likely to be verified, with only 12% saying they check information before sharing.

When looking to verify information using a search engine, Gen Z and Millennials use more advanced search techniques than older generations, according to the findings. Some 32% said they will go past the first page of results on a search engine, and 24% say they open multiple tabs or windows and perform multiple searches using different combinations of keywords.

Only 19% will use a reverse image search to find the original source of an image.

When asked how the respondents decide whether the information is true, 72% said they look to see whether the conclusions are supported by sources and facts, while 60% determine whether conclusions are logical, 55% check whether the content is from a government source, and 49% look to see if the writer may have a conflict of interest.  

Among Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X respondents, around half are moderately or extremely concerned about whether their friends and family believe false or misleading information they see online.

Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X respondents are more concerned than Baby Boomers and the Silent generation about friends and family members unintentionally sharing false or misleading information.

Four in ten respondents are very concerned about the effects of false or misleading information on the education of young people and the effects on public health.

Interestingly, 39% of respondents say they have unintentionally shared false or misleading information. Gen Z and Millennials seem to think they are more likely than the Silent generation to say think they have shared false or misleading information.

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