Google examines how different generations handle misinformation

Essentially, the study concludes that younger people are more likely to think they may have unintentionally shared false or misleading information—often driven by the pressure to share emotional content quickly. However, they are also more adept at using advanced fact-checking techniques. 

One-third of Gen Z respondents said they practice lateral reading always or most of the time when verifying information—more than double the percentage of boomers. About a third of younger people also said they run searches on multiple search engines to compare results, and go past the first page of search results. 

Portions of the survey provide an interesting snapshot of how people of different ages, and in different locations, experience misinformation and think about their own role in stopping or spreading it: 62% of all respondents believe they see misinformation online every week, for instance. Gen Z, millennial, and Gen X readers are more confident in their ability to spot misinformation and more concerned that their close family and friends might believe something misleading online. 

However, the study relies on participants to accurately report their own beliefs and habits. And the optimistic figures about Gen Z’s actual habits contrast pretty starkly with other findings on how people verify information online. 

Sam Wineburg, a Stanford University professor who studies fact-checking practices, thinks he knows why that might be: when you’re trying to understand how people actually behave on the internet, “self-report,” he says, “is bullshit.”