Monday, July 19, 2010

Welcome to Pornistan

An edited version of this post appeared in Express Tribune Blogs on July 19th 2010

 (Image Credit: The Tap Blog)

If Fox news is anything to go by, Pakistan may be the leading nation in "sexy" online searches. According to a recent article featured on FoxNews.com, Pakistan is ranked the first in the world in terms of pornographic Google searches. Of course, this discovery is juxtaposed with Pakistan's recent behaviour in cyberspace. Pakistan temporarily banned Facebook, Youtube and Blackberry service in reaction to the controversial Facebook group "Everyone Draw Muhammad Day", which itself was a reaction to Comedy Central's decision to censor the image of Prophet Muhammad from South Park. Of course there is the obvious question:  If Pakistan is an Islamic country, what's with all the porn?

I'm not sure if the writers at Fox News have gotten this memo yet, but covering Google Trends statistics is not really reporting. Looking up Google trends on the terms "porn", "sex" and all forms of beastiality  is something testosterone laced teenage boys do for fun, not professional reporters. In defense of Fox News though  I would like to add that this network promises news which is "fair and balanced", not "relevant and intelligent".

The reason that I am incensed about this is not that I feel the need to defend Pakistan, or that this article is an affront to my religious sensibilities. On the contrary,  I have no objection to this article on nationalist or religious grounds. I find this article offensive as a scientist. This is the epitome of bad science. Firstly, there is the obvious sampling error. Considering that at best estimates, only 10% of Pakistanis have access to Internet, the high frequency of porn searches hardly depict the Googling habits of an entire nation. Secondly, Google Trends and Google Insight report search term statistics limited to the searches made on Google. It does not account for all the other search activity on the internet. Thirdly, there is no limit on the number of searches made by the same search engine user. This means that an individual searching for "porn" and "sex" on Google, may use these search terms an infinite amount of time. Therefore, sex crazed maniacs in Pakistan will drive up relevant search statistics.

There is an obvious hilarity in this entire situation.Given the nature of the majority of comments that this piece has received it is surreal that very few seem to question the reliability of the article itself. It seems as though everyone accepts Google as a credible source for making judgments about countries that one has never visited. If it is this easy to fool Fox News readers, I wonder what else they can be talked into. So, I would like to propose a contest. Make up your own headline which you think should be published in the next Fox News article about Pakistan and post it in the comment section below. The only rule is that they just have to be funny. Here is my contribution:

Kind souls create sanctuary for donkeys victimized by sex crazed maniacs in Pakistan