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While manipulation of the facts or deception of the reader is usually unintentional in the human rights realm, accidentally misleading visualizations may be deceptive.

Common distortion techniques include:

  • truncated y-axis (such alteration of the axis range leads to exaggeration or understatement of the quantities presented — see Non-Zero Baseline );
  • representing quantity using area (when there is not a one-to-one relationship between the data and the graphical area, this can be distorting);
  • stretched aspect ratio (when the scale of one axis in a line chart is widened, the angle of the line changes, suggesting a different rate of increase or decrease than the data suggests); and
  • inverted axis (switching axes often leads viewers to interpret the data as supporting a message that is opposite to what is in the data).