Lies, Damned Lies and Porn Statistics

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 28 July 2013)
 
The Daily Record plays Texas Sharpshooter

More Brits visit porn sites than Facebook or Twitter shouts Scottish red-top rag the Daily Record.

Quoting research carried out by Daniel Buchuck on SimilarWeb.com, the Record reveals that in June 2013 8.50% of Britons searched adult websites as compared to 7.3% visiting social networking sites.

In true sensationalist gutter press style, the Glasgow-based newspaper of course tries to tie this into David Cameron’s announcement that the UK government intends to place filters on online users to determine what they may view on the internet. The filters will be set to “on” and users wishing to view pornography will have to apply for a pin number to turn them “off”. This is supposedly to cut down the viewing of illegal, mainly peadophile pornography and there are also plans for pop-ups for those searching certain keywords on the internet. Microsoft-owned Bing has already implemented this by producing a pop-up stating “Warning! Child abuse material is illegal.”

Having read the story, I did a little search for the company named in the story, SimilarWeb.com, on which I found the very report by Mr Buchuck. Oh and interesting reading it makes as well.

Certainly, as stated, in June 2013 web searches in the UK did indeed throw up a total of 8.50% viewing adult sites, as opposed to 7.3% on social networks. What they failed to mention however is that this compares to 15.65% on search engines (no mention if those searches were for porn), 9.59% on arts and entertainment, and a whopping 30.27% on “other” in the same period.

Furthermore, looking at Daniel Buchuck’s figures for searches on Google for the three months April to June 2013 throws up figures which may well turn the newspaper story completely on their head. In that period YouTube was responsible for the highest number of searches, accounting for 15.58% of all traffic. Then came Google at 5.12%, followed by Facebook on 4.71%. The top porn searches for that period make interesting reading. They accounted for traffic as follows;

Pornhub: 1.16%
Xnxx: 0.89%
XHamster: 0.84%
Redtube: 0.65%
Xvideos: 0.64%

Total: 4.18%

The Daily Record states “A study of Google searches in the three months to June showed that 8.5 per cent of visitors were looking for online porn while only 7.3 per cent wanted links to social network sites.” but we see this is clearly not the case. Indeed, that is not at all what Daniel Buchuck’s report states. The figure of 8.50% was for June alone, not for the three month figure he quotes. I also find it amusing – and not a little disturbing – that more people (0.75%) viewed the website of the Daily Mail (another gutter rag) than viewed Redtube.

Mr Buchuck does indeed state that the full list of Google searches for that period led to 8.19% hits on adult websites, but only the above five are included in the top 20 he lists. He also states “The fact is that most of the time people don’t just stumble upon adult content.” yet offers no evidence to back up that claim. Certainly, I have no doubt that many people will openly look for porn on Google, but that does not mean that people do not come across adult sites by accident. I certainly know it has happened to me in the past.

Statistics of course can often be made to fit what the compiler wants the reader to believe and this is precisely what the Daily Record are playing at. They are attempting a “Texas Sharpshooter” fallacy; this comes from the story of a Texan firing a number of shots at a barn, then painting a target around the largest cluster. The disturbing thing is that the Conservative UK government are doing exactly the same, with the opposition Labour Party now supporting them, and no doubt they will embrace and misuse Daniel Buchuck’s research in exactly the same way the Record has.

Meanwhile, I have never known the Daily Record to shy away from posting salacious images, or adult content among their personal ads for that matter. Physician heal thyself.

The thought also occurs that while those accessing social networks may be a great number of people, those accessing adult sites may be the same minority of people going from site to site. Think about it; you may go from Facebook to Twitter or other social networking sites in a day, but mostly you’ll have them open on different tabs. And once logged into one, there are not many people will continually log in and log out. Whereas those looking for adult materials are more likely to jump from site to site in their searches. We see here again how statistics can be manipulated to read what anyone wants.

The most important point about this report however, which the Daily Record point out in the body of their article but not in their headline, is that not one part of this data involves child pornography, nor any other illegal images for that matter.

This report therefore is irrelevant to the proposed governmental legislation. For as long as it is legal, then what citizens view in the privacy of their own homes is absolutely no business of the government.

More importantly however, it has absolutely no bearing upon the matter of child pornography whatsoever. Most child pornography is shared by paedophiles on bulletin board networks and the planned governmental legislation will do nothing to stop that being shared, nor shall it rescue or protect one child from being abused. Just as no peadophile is going to take one iota of notice of any pop up telling them, in a childish and ineffective way that they are ‘being naughty’. I cannot even call it a ‘band-aid on cancer’ approach to child pornography, as that at least would suggest something was being done.

All this legislation will result in is law-abiding citizens who choose to view legal adult material being viewed as suspect. Moreover, Daniel Buchuck points out in the conclusion to his report, “we live in a multi-device society and when there’s a will there’s a way. When people started setting up wifi networks in their homes, neighbours often “borrowed” their internet connection – soon, the favorite neighbor on the block might be the one that ‘opts in’.” This indeed shows yet another fault with the government proposals. As I stated in a previous blog, paedophiles and other sexual offenders will always find a way around any legislation the government implements. It also strikes me however that if this is the case, then there is every danger of a law-abiding citizen who has their filter switched to off being wrongfully convicted for accessing illegal materials they have never viewed.

Daily Record report:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/internet-survey-reveals-more-brits-2096515

Daniel Buchuck’s report on SimilarWeb:

http://blog.similarweb.com/uk-online-porn-ban-web-traffic-analysis-of-britains-porn-affair/

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