“Rape smear” statistics

Originally posted on the Objectiviser blog 17th July 2012.

The case of Mr Assange gets increasingly curious.

On 15th July the @Wikileaks twitter feed posted this tweet:

followed by this tweet :

I’m going to leave aside the interesting phrasing, which has generated a lot of comment, because the intention is clear.  I also covered elsewhere the “not yet charged” statement, which is highly misleading.  Wikileaks have now claimed that Jullian Assange has been wrongly accused of rape more than any other person in modern history.

The comparison is by google searches.  Is this reliable?

Those searches return pages which contain the word “assange” and the word “rape”, which is a bit like walking into a library and asking to see every book which has those words in, starting with the books that contain both.  Also, the second search contains the word “sex”, which is hardly comparable to rape.

The results themselves do not even support this theory: the very first page of the first search links to this article, which uses some of the common mistakes around this case to claim that Mr Assange is completely innocent – hardly a smear (it also seems to misunderstand how Google works, by the way).

The numbers for the searches are as follows:

Assange Rape 4,960,000 results

“strauss kahn” rape 2,300,000 results

“assange” sex 3,290,000 results

“strauss kahn” sex 690,000 results

But those numbers aren’t realistic, as I said.  A bit of playing showed me that the assange links run out after page 79 and the Strauss Kahn links run out after page 59 with the following words:

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 792 already displayed.

For Strauss Kahn, the number is 597.  Which is a lot less than the almost five million that the first-page summary would suggest.

Extending the results shows, as expected, less relevant results being returned later on, and on the last page of (extended) results for Assange linked to an article which is about a totally different person, and doesn’t mention Mr Assange at all as far as I can see. Update: the article I found no longer exists so I have removed the dead link.

So not only are the numbers including articles claiming Mr Assange’s innocence, but also totally unrelated articles.

I wondered if I could find a name which returned more results on the summary page.  This took about thirty seconds.

Clinton rape 45,900,000 results

Blackadder rape 4,030,000 results

So Wikileaks’ claim that Mr Asssange is the most smeared man in modern history is dwarfed (using the same method) by President Clinton, and comparable to a fictional character from a British situation comedy.

What conclusions can be drawn from this? Not a lot really, other than whoever posted the tweet has very little idea of how Google works, and can’t be bothered to do some very simply verification of their working before announcing it to the world as if it was fact.

I conclude that the tweets and the links mean absolutely nothing at all.  What it does do is damage the credibility of the (already quite dubious) official Wikileaks feed – and hence the credibility of Wikileaks itself.

One has to wonder who is doing this sort of thing on the official Wikileaks channel – and why.

Note: I have linked directly to pages of google searches.  These pages are likely to return different results in future, as web pages are added, removed, and Google tweak their algorithm.  They are accurate at the time of writing.

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