July 02, 2010

ICM Registry and Deceptive Dot-Ex-Ex-Ex Polls

Greetings. One of the techniques that ICM Registry has been using to try demonstrate public demand for a dot-ex-ex-ex top level domain (TLD) has been touting various "poll" results. Right now they're pushing a new CNN "poll" that seems to show an amazing 83% approval rate.

But wait a second. What are we actually talking about here? Turns out that the CNN "poll" wasn't a scientific poll at all -- merely a scientifically worthless "self-selected" online poll. Statistical value and meaning: virtually nil.

ICM also promotes other magazine and newspaper polls over the years that gave similar lopsided numbers. It's unclear from their statements whether any or all of those were also self-selected polls, but it appears quite possible. Way back in 2004, ICM hired Lombardo Consulting to poll 1000 people on the topic (1K is indeed a typical national scientific poll size), and got similar results.

But even aside from issues of self-selection, the key to polling is of course the nature of the questions. Remember How to Lie with Statistics? Still a classic ... [As always, I've substituted "dot-ex-ex-ex" below to avoid e-mail blocking problems]:

CNN: Do you think pornographic websites should have their own "dot-ex-ex-ex" domain?

Business Week: Should purveyors of porn get their own domain?

Huntington Herald Dispatch: Would creating dot-ex-ex-ex keep Internet users from accidentally stumbling upon porn sites?

And finally, Lombardo: If those who run the Internet could assist in preventing child pornography and make the Internet safer for children and families by creating a dot-ex-ex-ex Internet address, would you support this?

It's difficult to imagine a more intellectually dishonest set of questions. Leaving aside loaded words like "purveyors" -- the questions appear to obviously suggest that all targeted sites (Only professional? Also amateur? Just U.S. or worldwide?) would be somehow limited exclusively to the dot-ex-ex-ex domain.

And it appears (from what I can determine so far at least) that no significant mention was made of the fact that the proposal includes no mechanism to force such sites to only reside in dot-ex-ex-ex (via oppressive "domain ghettoization" legislation or the like) -- which would certainly be quite appropriately subject to immense litigation battles. I wonder how these poll participants (self-selected or not) would have responded if it was made very clear that dot-ex-ex-ex was in addition to existing (e.g. dot-com) domain names?

The Lombardo question seems the most egregious, making completely unsupported claims about making the Internet safer and assisting in the prevention of c-porn. The latter is particularly ludicrous because c-porn is already illegal and no legitimate sources for such materials exist on any site or in any TLD.

In other words, the polling data being promoted by ICM Registry is misleading and biased, therefore statistically worthless -- and the quintessential essence of unmitigated bull.


Posted by Lauren at July 2, 2010 06:05 PM | Permalink
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