Thursday, August 04, 2011

Enter the fact checkers

A completely unknown operation calling itself ApTiquant issued a press release claiming that it had invited 100,000 web users to take IQ tests and matched their results with the type of browser they used. It also supplied extensive research data.The results claimed to show that Internet Explorer users were generally of lower intelligence.

This was picked up by the magazine PC World and then by the "copy 'n' paste" MSM, including the BBC and the Failygraph. But these oh-so-clever journalists, who are so much cleverer than us bloggers, got it wrong.

But it wasn't even the Beeb which spotted the hoax. Questions about the authenticity of the story were raised by readers, who established that the company which put out the research - ApTiquant - appeared to have only set up its website in the past month. The fact-checking was done by the readers.

Mostly, the MSM in all its arrogance ignores its readers' comments, but the story here was so obviously wrong - and demonstrably so - that the BBC was forced to do something. It thus sought alternative views for the original story, including Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University's Statistical Laboratory, who said: "I believe these figures are implausibly low - and an insult to IE users".

What a pity, though, that no one thought to do the research before they published the story. But that's the MSM for you. It was lifted from a "prestige" magazine, and if you have prestige, your word is accepted – no one will question it. That is why the MSM produces so much unmitigated rubbish, and why it will continue to get caught out - it peddles prestige, not facts.