11:16am

Wed August 3, 2011
The Two-Way

Study About The Intelligence Of Internet Explorer Users Likely A Hoax

It turns out the ones with a below average IQ are a number of people in the news media — including us — who were fooled by an elaborate hoax that claimed users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser were slow. We fell for it and so did others like the BBC, CNN, Forbes as well as the IT publication The Register, which we quoted.

The BBC reports that AptiQuant, the "company" that put out the study, had only recently set up its website and some of the staff images on the site were copied from a business in Paris, which denied any connection with AptiQuant.

NPR's attempts to contact AptiQuant have been unsuccessful.

In a Wired piece today, the magazine points out that if you looked at the data carefully, it doesn't add up. First of all, in a chart provided by the company, IE users have an IQ of 80, which is below average, yet Opera users were given a superior IQ of about 150. In an interview with the BBC, Cambridge statistician David Spiegelhalter noted something smelled fishy, saying "these figures are implausibly low – and an insult to IE users."

Also, Wired points out, the street address printed on AptiQuant's study is in "middle of an intersection in downtown Vancouver." A quick search on Google Street View would have a yielded a parking lot, a general store, a cafe or a bookstore, not a "psychometric consulting company."

In its story today, CNN spoke to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with web security firm Sophos, who said he thought the hoax might be "performance art," or come from a "mischief maker who gets a laugh out of all of this."

So with egg on our face, we say sorry to all the Internet Explorer users we offended out there.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.