Who has a low IQ now? 'Study' of Internet Explorer users was a hoax


This item is an apology for a link I included in the "Also Noted" section of our Aug. 1 newsletter. The link was to a story about a survey finding that Internet Explorer users have lower IQs than users of other Internet browsers. The story--as many of you may have suspected--was a hoax.

The BBC, which also was duped by the bogus research, reported Aug. 3 that the group that released the study--allegedly a Canadian company called AptiQuant--only recently set up a website, and the staff pictures on the site were copied from a real company based in Paris. BBC readers had raised questions about the legitimacy of the report, which led the news outlet to investigate further.

After the BBC issued its mea culpa, a post on the AptiQuant site admitted to the hoax. "There is no company called AptiQuant, and no such survey was ever done," the anonymous post reads. "The main purpose behind this hoax was to create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6 and how it is pulling back innovation."

In retrospect, it's hard to envision how this one fell beneath my suspicion radar. As Wired's Tim Carmody points out, the headline alone should have raised red flags. Another clue that the "study's" claims were bogus is the fact that the company had no history of research. Certainly if the AptiQuant press release had surfaced on April 1, it would have been given a much more critical eye by one and all.

The fact that I was in some excellent company in falling for this incredibly stupid hoax is little comfort. My link was to a story at Silicon Alley Insider, but the "study" was also reported on by CNN, NPR, ZDNet, CNET and Forbes, as well as the BBC. The incident is a prime example of the "it's news because it's news" phenomenon of the Internet, and how trusted media feed off each other. I'm very sorry I was a part of it.

For more:
- see the BBC article
- see Tim Carmody's post at Wired

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