Abstract: This experimental study analyzes the effect of media literacy on the ability of Spanish seniors over 50 years of age to identify fake news. The experiment measures the improvement achieved by older adults in the detection of political disinformation thanks to a digital competence course offered through WhatsApp. The study comprises a total sample of 1,029 individuals, subdivided into a control group (n = 531) and an experimental group (n = 498), from which a qualified experimental subsample (n = 87) was extracted. Results reveal that participants’ political beliefs, ranging from left to right positions, influence their ability to detect misinformation. A progressive political position is associated with higher accuracy in identifying right-biased news headlines and lower accuracy for left-biased headlines. A conservative position is associated with higher accuracy when the news headline has a progressive bias, but lower accuracy when the headline is right-wing. Users are more critical when the headline has a bias against theirs, while they are more likely to believe news that confirms their own beliefs. The study adds evidence on the relevance of cognitive biases in disinformation and supports the convenience of designing specific media literacy actions aimed at older adults.
Keywords: fake news; information disorders; media literacy; news bias; older adults; political disinformation; Spain; WhatsApp