While there were lot of discussions on social media and news channels about the medals India won in Rio Olympics this year, there was one story that was widely circulated and talked about. The news was carried by almost every top news channel making every one believe India has still not evolved or outgrown the curse of caste.
Lets look at the statistics that these news channels and media websites used:
An article by a popular news website used the Google Trends graph above to show the sudden huge hike in search for “pv sidhu caste”. The accompanying graph will more likely make anyone believe it in first glance.
The article also mentioned “In August, there were at least 10 times more searches for her caste compared to July. So, effectively, millions of Indians have searched for her caste so far”. While the first part is certainly true, how did the website decide on the second part? “Millions”!!
We need to also note that “10 times more searches” did not just happen for PV Sindhu’s caste but also for any keyword related to her as for most of them she was unknown until the news came that she has moved to the finals. The chart below shows that even a search for “pv sindhu birthday” hiked as everyone was searching for knowing one or the other about her.
Another blind research done by this news channel mentioned that, there were more than 150,000 searches done for her caste in June and nearly 90,000 in July. This was then just copied by even bigger channels without any basic research.
Again, one would believe at first glance or even the third glance the chart accompanied to prove the point. Unfortunately, the problem was not the chart but the way they showed it. The bar chart DOES NOT show the search volume for “pv sindhu caste” but the total search volume for all keywords that can relate to “pv” or “sindhu” or “pv sindhu” or “pv sindhu caste” So, it could also be “pv sindhu badmintion” or as common as “sindhu badminton player”. So this volume was a total of more than 250 keywords combined. The below screen grab shows the list of some of the keywords in the group.
So, how much was the actual number of searches? It is 210 per month which is no way in comparison to the 1 Million that they published and spread to the masses.
This news not just was an epic example of bad journalism but brought a dark cloud on the image of Indians. None of the news channels apologized for their misinformation and one of the early reporters of this wrong information came out and tried to justify their news by blaming Google and saying “Google analytics is full of jargons” and “makes it difficult for a person to grasp the exact implications”.