How To Lie With Statistics: France Pretends HADOPI Law Is Working
from the doing-the-math dept
The French government was one of the first to push for a three strikes policy to kick people off the internet based on accusations (not convictions) of copyright infringement. So, I guess it should be no surprise that they feel like lying with statistics to make the program sound better. The government and various agencies are running around touting the claim that, according to their survey the HADOPI law has convinced more than 50% of users to stop file sharing. Problem is, that’s not what the data really says. The real data shows that of people surveyed only 7% said either they “or someone close” had received a warning letter. Now, of those 7%, 50% claimed that they would stop infringing.
Now, if you’re playing along with the home game, you should have quickly realized that the actual percentage of people surveyed is more like 3.5% — and I could argue that it’s even lower for a few key reasons:
- The key question asked wasn’t whether the individual would stop file sharing, but whether or not they or someone close to them had. Suddenly you have a big statistical problem, because — to take an extreme example — let’s say that everyone in a town knows the one big file sharer who shares content online, but no one else in the town does. And, that guy knows and makes it clear that if he gets an injunction, he’ll stop. Now, since everyone knows this guy, the reports from that town would be that 100% of people receive letters and 100% of those recipients would stop using P2P, even if that wasn’t true at all. Including the “or someone close to you” makes the effective data pretty close to useless, because there’s no way to separate out the overlap.
- The whole thing is based on a survey, which is notoriously unreliable in getting accurate data. People quite frequently answer what they think others want them to say, rather than what they’re really thinking. And, when asking them if they’ll stop engaging in illegal activity, many are simply going to say yes, even if they have no intention to follow through.
So, if you add that all up, suddenly we’re talking about a very tiny fraction of users claiming that they’ll actually change their behavior based on a notice, but with a little fun and games, people can pretend that the numbers are much higher than they really are.