Thursday, August 4, 2011

IE IQ Hoax

Too bad this study of IE users' IQ was already exposed as a hoax. It would have made a great challenge.

Here's the headline as it appeared yesterday in BBC News:

Internet Explorer story was bogus

A story which suggested that users of Internet Explorer have a lower IQ than people who chose other browsers appears to have been an elaborate hoax. A number of media organisations, including the BBC, reported on the research, put out by Canadian firm ApTiquant.
If you visit the Aptiquant website, you'll see this article: Tell-Tale signs that should have uncovered the hoax in less than 5 minutes! probably written by the author of the site. The list contains 8 points:
  1. The domain was registered on July 14th 2011.
  2. The test that was mentioned in the report, “Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test” is a copyrighted test and cannot be administered online.
  3. The phone number listed on the report and the press release is the same listed on the press releases/whois of my other websites. A google search reveals this.
  4. The address listed on the report does not exist.
  5. I copy/pasted most of the material from “Central Test” and got lazy to even change the pictures.
  6. The website is made in WordPress. Come on now!
  7. I am sure, my haphazardly put together report had more than one grammatical mistakes.
  8. There is a link to our website in the footer.
These boil down to fact-checking information found on the site:
  • A whois search of the domain name to find the owner, date (#1), telephone (#3), address (#4);
  • A search for Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (#2) to see if it's available online;
  • A string query to see if the material was copied from somewhere else online (#5);
  • A close reading of the report to uncover spelling and grammatical mistakes (#7);

The other two (#6 and #8) aren't real obvious red flags. Lots of sites have ads and who cares much what software was used to create the site. I doubt if many searchers would have figured out #2 or attempted a string query to check on plagiarism (#5).

The quickest investigative method is definitely fact checking the domain. This yields the most information for further investigation, including the alleged author's name, which I haven't located yet on the AptiQuant site. A search for the author's name returns suspicious information that isn't conclusive but does make you wonder why someone like this would be involved in a study like that. I guess it's not surprising that questioning the author's credibility doesn't appear in the list of 8 above.

I didn't visit the site until after the hoax broke, and Google's cache doesn't go back before that, so I can't tell if information was removed from the site. For instance, information about the team is missing. If that was the case when the fake study first appeared, that too would have been a red flag.

In addition to the what the site author has said about obvious signs of the hoax, do you see others? Share your answers in the comments.

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