A story that suggested Internet Explorer users had a lower IQ than those who use other browsers appears to have been a hoax.

Suspicions arose when it emerged the website of the company which claimed to have done the research, had only been recently set up using staff photos copied from a legitimate business in Paris.

The story that claimed Internet Explorer users were of lower intelligence, was reported by media outlets worldwide, including the BBC, CNN, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Forbes.

Their reports were based on research put out by a Canadian firm called ApTiquant.

It was only recently discovered that thumbnail images of the firm's staff on the website matched those on the site of French research company Central Test, although many of the names had been changed.

Central Test confirmed it had been made aware of the copy but had no knowledge of ApTiquant or its activities.

ApTiquant issued a press release claming that it had invited 100,000 web users to take IQ tests and matched their results with the type of browser they used.

It also supplied extensive research data.

The BBC sought alternative views for the original story, including Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University's Statistical Laboratory, who said: "I believe these figures are implausibly low and an insult to IE users."

No-one on ApTiquant's contact number was available for comment.