This is a story taken from Media Watch broadcast on the ABC on Monday night and illustrates that all on-line polls should be treated with extreme care.
On October 7 last year the Brisbane Sunday mail asked readers to vote on whether or not speed limits should be lowered. The next day News.com.au reported that of over 17,000 votes 16,000 said speed limits should be raised.
An email from a Russell Phillips confessed that over 15,00 of those votes were his. He explained on his website The Ubermotive Guide to Media Influence that provided the cookies are cleared between each vote it was possible to vote as many times as you like. Philips wrote a bot that voted for him 15,000 times.
News limited did not respond to Russell Philip’s email.
Another vote asking about vaccination for children drew 170,000 votes which were split 50/50. Mr Philips had been at it again. He had written a program that voted the opposite to whatever someone else voted.
Before Media Watch went to air on Monday Mr Phillips told Jonathan Holms that he had cracked both News Limited and Fairfax Media’s latest defences.
The transcript of this story can be found on http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatc/transcripts or viewed in iview.