Recently there was a "study" published that claimed that Internet Explorer users were dumber than users of other browsers. It was a wild claim at best, but of course the media ran with it. Even the normally stoic BBC got caught in the hullabaloo. It was an outrageous claim, but it made for a good story.
And it turns out it was all fabricated.
The perpetrator of the hoax has come out and apologized for the hoax. Whatever his intentions may be, it seems that Microsoft and a certain number of the more litigious Internet Explorer users are none-too-happy with having their users, or being one of the users, labeled as "dumb".
I can kind of see Microsoft being unhappy with this whole situation. After all, it's their product that has been wrongly framed as making people stupid. If I were a business, I'd probably want to do something to counteract those claims.
But the individual users that were lumped into the "dumb" category? I'm not sure what dog they have in this fight. Are you that thin-skinned that someone jokingly calling you dumb is enough to file papers to sue someone? That's either the stupidest thing I've heard, or the most opportunistic thing you could think of to take advantage of the system.
Either way, it's pretty dumb.
What's even more troubling to me is that this story spread like wildfire through the media, but nobody thought to really check the claims. Sure, there was an official-looking website, but I'm pretty sure 20 minutes of this thing that they used to do back in the old days (I think they called it "reporting") would have exposed it as a sham.
Didn't anyone try to get an interview before running the story?
I'm reminded of the quote by Marcello Truzzi (thank you Wikipedia): "An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof." Just putting up some "research" on a website isn't extraordinary proof; You need additional study. Reporting "there's a study out there that claims that..." isn't reporting at all. You want a scoop? "There's a website out there that claims that radishes were put on this Earth by aliens." There, I said it. Now all I need is a major news outlet to start the echo chamber, and maybe throw up some Adwords on the site to make some money off of the stupidity.
It's too far of a stretch to say that users of a particular browser are smarter or dumber than others, but what's apparent are that the players who can't let a hoax go without a lawsuit, and the media who perpetuate these sorts of hoaxes aren't the brightest bulbs in the package.
I'll expect my summons shortly.