Instituto Politécnico de Viseu - Escola Superior de Educação (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 7746-7753
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.1957
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Social networks are one of the primary vehicles for sharing (dis)information, fake news does not exist in a vacuum, and they are not exclusive to a specific group of the population. Fake news will only fulfil their creators’ intentions if they are unfiltered, consumed and disseminated by users. This fact provides a context better to understand misinformation and the essence of fake news. Understanding this type of consumer can help us to improve the design of better response processes for fake news, especially the creation of automatic detection tools. There (…) are specific users who are more likely to trust fake news than real news; and (…) these users reveal different features from those who are more likely to trust real news” [1: 435].

It seems to be possible to list some characteristics that can help to identify users more likely to consume and share disinformation. Some studies revealed that older people are more prone to believe fake news and men seems to consume more of this type of content on social networks. However, women appear to be more vulnerable to misinformation.

By accepting that gender and age influence the subject's cognitive processes [2] for “with age gradually change, people typically become less open to experiences but more agreeable and conscientious" [1: 434]; is this trend also valid in the patterns of information consumption of higher education students in Portugal. In this context, this article addresses the problem of misinformation and tries to explore if there are significant differences between genders in the access and consumption of online information.

With a case study carried out, within this paper, the focus is placed on the results obtained through the applied survey. The sample was made up of 139 students from a higher education institution in Portugal, enrolled in an undergraduate communication program during the 2019/2020 academic year. The results provided proof of gender differences in the use of media and information consumption, but no evidence as to the possession of skills capable of aiding the distinction between credible and false sources of information.

The results emphasize that social networks are the most used tool for accessing news, and the most used are Instagram, Youtube, Whatsapp and Facebook. As to platforms where there is greater fake news sharing, social networks and videos platforms are the most commonly used.

The survey results also showed that when accessing fake news, most students accepted the information as being accurate and, in this case, statistical tests did not show significant differences between genders.

The data analysis indicates that the intensive use of platforms where disinformation is more prevalent does not seem to influence how students deal with the issue. Most of them demonstrate a tendency to accept the facts and stories presented as they are.

[1] Shu, K., Wang, S., & Liu, H. (2018). Understanding user profiles on social media for fake news detection. In 2018 IEEE Conference on Multimedia Information Processing and Retrieval (MIPR) (pp. 430-435).
[2] Su, R., Rounds, J., & Armstrong, P. I. (2009). Men and things, women and people: a meta-analysis of sex differences in interests. Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 859–884.
Disinformation, Fake News, Students, Higher Education, Gender.