Misleading Infographic Classics from the WIPO

This infographic from the WIPO has some classics from the misinformation tool kit. It wants to show the increase in Domain Name cases in 2016 and the relative sizes of the industry sectors they came from. But by increasing both the height and width of shapes used to represent them, the differences are exaggerated.

This graphic tries to show that the number of cases has increased by 10% and the height of the shaded square behind is indeed 10% taller than the unshaded one in front.  But the width has also been increased by 10%.  This is deceptive because the area of the shaded square is 21% greater than the unshaded one.  A more accurate representation would look like this:

The same error is made in the breakdown by country, but it is especially egregious in the case of France.

This attempts to illustrate the 38.3% increase in cases from France.  But an increase of 38.3% in both the height and width of a square results in an increase in area of a staggering 91%.  A more accurate representation would look like this:

In the case of Italy the increase of of 41.4% results in an increased area of 100%!

The same visual misrepresentation can also occur when heights of circles are used.  A 10% increase in the diameter of a circle results in more than a 10% increase in area.

A table on the right of the infographic shows the number and percentage of cases by industry sector.  A pie chart is an ideal tool for this kind of data and the designer has indeed used pie segments to show the percentages.  For comparison the largest sector and smallest sector are shown together below:

Here the pie segments accurately reflect the size of the Banking & Finance sector compared to the Biotech & Pharma.  Although the Banking & Finance sector is bigger, they are comparable.

However when the same difference in size is represented using circles the effect can be misleading.

The heights of the circles above are approximately in a ratio of 247 :147 and so their relative heights are accurate.  The height of the larger circle is about 1.7 times that of the smaller.  But the ratio of their areas is very different.  The area of the larger circle is approximately 2.7 time that of the smaller.

The contrast between the pie segments and the circles is startling since the are attempting to illustrate the same difference in size.  The circles greatly exaggerate the difference.


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