Posts Tagged ‘fake news’

Browser IQ

29.08.2011 17:47

Last month, several news media (even the reputable ones) reported that a study claiming that Internet Explorer users had lower IQ than users of other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari), and that users of Opera and Camino browsers had “exceptionally higher” IQ levels. I primarily use Opera myself, but since I was on vacation at the time, and wasn’t that much online, the story never caught my eye until the aftermath earlier this month.

Just about every news media took the bait, never researching further into the story, which shows how strong the inclination of Microsoft-hate has become – a claim that users of Microsoft’s already-controversy-filled browser seemed likely to those who are against Microsoft on some level or another. I’m not too keen on either Microsoft or Apple, but I do see good market areas for their products – it’s like that quote about religion; “I’ve got nothing against God, it’s his fanclub I can’t stand” – it’s the herd of almost-religious followers of either side I’m very much against. I’m also kind of glad I was playing the high-resolution offline game (aka. “real life”) at the time, or I would most likely have been suckered in as well.

What annoys me the most about the story, is the follow-up by the joker who published the false study in the first place, trying to set people straight. In the aftermath, he had released at least two articles – “How the hoax started and propagated” and “Tell-Tale signs that should have uncovered the hoax in less than 5 minutes” (I have saved a cached version of these for your viewing pleasure, since the original site has been taken down and only redirects to some price-comparison site) – and the latter one seems rather arrogant towards researchers and those who believed the story in the first place. I’d like to point out flaws with each of the eight so-called “tell-tale signs” for you.

1. The domain was registered on July 14th 2011.

Sure, this might have revealed that the so-called research bureau hadn’t been in business longer than a week or two, but who does this as their first step towards confirming the truthfulness of a published study? For all we know, the new name/domain might have been a recent change, as companies all over the world change names all the time.

2. The test that was mentioned in the report, “Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test” is a copyrighted test and cannot be administered online.

Who knows these things? Sure, the test is probably under some level of copyright, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be administered online. There are several tests that are administered this way. For instance, most Cisco certifications (such as CCNA) is administered partially online. Granted, they are administered in a secured environment certified by their test delivery partner Pearson VUE, but they are nevertheless able to administer some of the exams 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.

Granted, the researchers with the news media might have tried calling the phone number listed in the report and press release, but there’s usually no need for this, unless they want to request additional information not already addressed in the press release or the report itself.

Also, you may want to look into what’s known as “call centers” (for incoming use).

4. The address listed on the report does not exist.

Unless you went to the address yourself (or live in the nearby area of the proposed address), used Google Maps/Streetview, or tried sending a letter to that address, how would you know? There are also streets that are small enough to not appear on larger map services, you know. (Especially streets that only have one or two street numbers assigned to them.)

Also, changes in street names or numbers are usually transparent to most people – just because a street changes its name doesn’t mean the address never existed in the first place. For all we know, the analytics bureau hadn’t updated their marketing materials for some time (or had overlooked that particular marketing template), which might have listed an older address.

5. All the material on my website was not original.

The researchers were addressing the received study, not going into detailed scrutiny of the website it was linked to. If you’re receiving financial advice from someone, do you audit their entire financial background before you act on the advice?

6.  The website is made in WordPress. Come on now!

Just because someone’s website is made in WordPress, doesn’t mean that it’s not reputable. Network Solutions, Samsung, TechCrunch, Forbes, Ford, Rackspace, Spotify, eBay, Ben & Jerry’s, CNN’s Business 360, GE, Pepsi, OnStar, Best Buy, Fisher Price, and even Wall Street Journal, all use WordPress for some section of their websites (if not all), just to mention a few. Just the fact that they trust the WordPress publishing platform for a part of their business areas elevates the trustworthiness of WordPress, as far as I can tell, not the other way around. I mean, something like that doesn’t pull the trustworthiness of those companies downwards, does it?

7. I am sure, my haphazardly put together report had more than one grammatical mistakes.

Typos can happen to anyone. If you have someone who doesn’t have English as their first language (such as myself), grammatical errors are bound to happen at any time. Even if the domain WHOIS record for currently lists “Tarandeep Singh Gill” (a foreign-to-America-sounding name, even for Canada) at the top of the registrant’s record, you don’t expect perfect grammar for any news source.

8. There is a link to our website in the footer.

I’m sure this guy has never heard of sponsorships. Even an analytics bureau has to have income from somewhere – a business not related to the type of studies released by said bureau may just reveal where they get their money from.

And from what I could tell, is a price comparison search engine, which has nothing to do with browser user analytics. For all we know, that site might’ve even assisted in reeling in users/participants for the study.


As I mentioned earlier, a simple phone call or two might have debunked the so-called study at an earlier point, but I feel the reasons for discovering the validity listed by the original prankster in themselves are just a tad off.