92 percent of Whirlpool users against filter


Note: On 23 February, the day after this article was first published, Whirlpool stated that the results released in this article did not constitute the final survey results. They were computed for a specific purpose before the Whirlpool survey closed.

Early results from broadband information site Whirlpool‘s annual survey have found that 91.8 percent of respondents do not support the idea of mandatory internet filtering, with most believing the government should focus on educating parents and children instead.

In total, some 21,755 people responded to the survey, which is held each year and is seen as a key indicator to the opinions and internet usage patterns of technically proficient Australians and early technology adopters. The full results of the survey, which covers a range of other issues such as hardware usage and experiences with ISPs, are expected to be published soon. Delimiter has gained early access to the filter section of the survey only.

The 91.8 percent figure has risen since the last survey in early 2009, which showed that 88.9 percent of the 19,763 respondents at that stage would opt out of a filter if given the option.

This year’s result echoes similar polls conducted last year by the Sydney Morning Herald and ZDNet.com.au. 96 percent of the 24,378 respondents to an online SMH poll stated they believed the filtering plan was not a good idea and impinged on their freedom, while 96.6 percent of the 1746 respondents in the ZDNet.com.au survey stated the government was completely wrong on the policy.

However, a survey recently commissioned by the ABC’s Hungry Beast program appeared to show that 80 percent of respondents supported the filter, prompting strong discussion online about the poll.

Whirlpool’s survey this year showed that only 3.2 percent of respondents believed the Government should focus on mandatory internet filtering as an online safety technique.

Instead, 81.8 percent and 63.9 percent believed the Government should focus on respectively educating parents and children, 43.7 percent on law enforcement, 42.1 percent on desktop filter software and 33.5 percent on subsidising ISP-level opt-in filters.

Concerns remain
Whirlpool also queried respondents on what negative and positive results might come from the filtering initiative. The results:

  • 90 percent believed the filter might overblock/restrict access to legitimate information
  • 86.6 percent believed it may give parents a false sense of security
  • 82.5 believed the system could be abused by future governments
  • 78 percent believed it may reduce internet performance
  • 67.4 percent believed it might reduce internet performance
  • And 53.6 percent believed it might make the internet less reliable

In terms of positive results, only 32.2 percent and 40 percent of respondents to the Whirlpool survey believed the filter would respectively protect children from harm and restrict access to child pornography. 23.1 percent believed it would restrict access to other “criminal material”, while 9.3 percent believed it would “protect me from visiting inappropriate sites”. 8.6 percent believed it would reduce crime in general.

The internet filtering issue also appeared set to change voting patterns at the next Federal election, with 44 percent of respondents stating the issue would be a “key factor” in their voting decision, and 39.4 percent stating the issue could affect their vote, but not at the expense of other issues. 14.2 percent stated it would not affect their vote, while the remainder, 2.4 percent, were not eligible to vote.

Criticism of Whirlpool survey results in the past has focused on the idea that the site’s user base is slanted towards the technically proficient. And there is a demonstratable slant in that direction — the most popular careers by far listed by respondents were in the IT sector — either as managers or IT admins, developers, or support officers.

Overall, 32.5 percent of respondents to Whirlpool’s survey listed their role as being IT staff of some sort, with a further 3.2 percent working in the telecommunications sector. However, virtually ever other sector was also represented in the survey’s demographics, with popular choices being government (4.7 percent), engineering/oil/mining (4.7 percent) and healthcare/medical (2.7 percent).

The age of the respondents reflected a broad spread among the ages below 50, although respondents aged 17 or younger were excluded from participating. The rest responded as follows:

  • 18 to 21 years of age: 11.4 percent
  • 22 to 25 years of age: 16.6 percent
  • 26 to 30 years of age: 18.2 percent
  • 31 to 40 years of age: 24.7 percent
  • 41 to 50 years of age: 13.9 percent
  • 51 or older years of age: 15.2 percent

33.8 percent listed their technical proficiency as “guru”, with a further 38.3 percent and 23.5 percent saying they were respectively a “power use” or “confident” with technology. Only 4.1 percent described their technical proficiency level as “still learning” and just 0.3 percent (only 70 people) said they were a beginner.

Image credit: Maciek PELC, royalty free


  1. hey Hans,

    that’s the common complaint leveled against the Whirlpool survey data, and I noted it in the article. However, I think the data is still statistically important, as it gives a strong indication into what users who are technically proficient (and therefore understand the technology behind the filtering proposal) think of it.

    There’s nothing wrong with publishing the results of a survey into a certain base, if you acknowledge what the demography of that base is.

  2. Yes, potheads technically proficient dope fiends are. Disjointed from reality of wide public opinion as Whirlpool respondents, too.

  3. ““92 percent of Whirlpool users against filter”

    In other late breaking news:

    # 92 percent of religious conservatives are against gay marriage
    # 92 percent of union bosses are against Work Choices
    # 92 percent of metalheads are against Rick Astley”

    Fair enough, now lets see, who would you ask about gay marriage? Maybe if we ask the gay people about it we would get 100% for. The point is not that you ask a known biased group about a subject, but that you ask a group with knowledge about a subject for thier opinions. You wouldn’t ask a group of IT techs about about the school curriculum, but I guess you would ask a group of school teachers. The whirlpool user base isn’t a known biased group, it contains christians, muslims, housewives, gamers, a wide spread of the population in fact, its main bias is that it is a technically knowledgeable group,which shouldn’t immediately rule it out as a good testing ground for technical and IT questions.

  4. I don’t like the way Conroy and his mob are selling this policy to the general public, and I don’t really know why they are persisting with this course of action – they’re misleading them into what it’s really all about.

    Those who *do* understand the internet know it will have little effect and/or won’t work the way it’s being advertised – it will just become a political tool for the government of the day to use to their advantage.

    Those who *don’t* understand the internet hear the emotive words/phrases “pornography”, “filter” and “protect the children” and naturally they’ll think its a good idea – without actually realizing what it will actually do, possibly lulling parents into a false sense of security and not bothering to install their own filter software such as NetNany or CyberPatrol. No wonder 80% in ABC’s poll were in favor of the filter.

  5. I’d be quite happy with the government filtering internet data, as long as they also forced Australia Post to open, read and censor our snail-mail.

    Of course, the Australian public would have to approve.

    • How about a correct AusPost comparison.

      Lets say the Government has decided to filter mail order abdominal machines because they are a scam. Great. How would said filter work?

      Australia Post will have a machine, the same machine that scans the address on the envelope and sorts the mail to intended destinations, with no slowdowns at all.
      When you send a letter, 100% of the time it gets sorted and sent to the destination without it being opened, read, or delayed.

      However, should you write the address of mail order warehouse – known (to the government) to deal with abdominal machines – on your envelope, it then gets set aside to be further checked.
      If your letter has been put aside, it will be opened and checked for the words “abs” “abdominal” or other words to describe an abdominal machine. If no such words are found, your letter is resealed and sent on its way, so at this step there might be a slightly perceivable delay.

      If you did order an “ab cruncher 2000 cyclonic turbo ultra plus”, your letter gets dropped into the shredder accidentally on purpose. No one photocopies your letter, no one memorises your letter, the government does not send men in suits to your door.

      Now you can see how it is easy to bypass. Send your letter to a third party who is not subject to the filter, and they can on-send your “ab blaster” order.

      I don’t object to a government filter. I would like to see it setup with an Opt-Out ability and / or The list of RC URL’s made publicly available.

  6. “Members never see photos of the apparently reclusive owner, but are expected to accept the “benign dictator” model of Whirlpool.”

    Whirlpool is a privately owned forum, or course its a dictatorship, the owner controls it, would you have him forced to do what YOU want? Life isn’t like that.

    “Whirlpool rules even forbid discussion of the so-called “moderation” process with other members in on-line forums; ‘

    Oh dear, the best you can do? This is in common with most other forums I have been a member of and even been a moderator on, you are NEVER allowed to discuss moderators decisions on the public forum of any discussion forum I have been a member of.

    “Whirlpool is a place where members are encouraged to “applaud” ISPs & convince each other that the latest -limited- Internet plans are worthy of note and/or hours of discussion”

    I can see you’ve never been onto the Bigpond page at the forum, practically every day the entire first page is filled with complaints about Bigpond, hardly what I call applauding!

    “A telling example (which also provides evidence for our first point (about the unrepresentative sample) is that not all Whirlpool members are sufficiently “privileged” to comment on its “In the New” forum; in particular, new members are unable to see that (& and several other forums) at all.”

    Quite common, a reward for being along time member, and I can assure you they are very similar to the general forums. I have been a “privileged” member of other discussions forums also.

    “There is no Whirlpool forum in which to discuss Politics, as if there weren’t any political aspects of the issues raised in other Whirlpool forums…”

    Whirlpool is a private forum and the rules are basically the same as most other forum’s, the “owner” of the discussion forum is entitled to decide what subjects people are allowed to discuss by setting up specific subject forums and rules of acess, I don’t really see what you are complaining about. The internet is, at the moment, free, you may come and go as you please, I assure you that there is no compulsion to actually visit Whirlpool.

    “We feel that the very group, whose views on filtering have being reported in this article, are knowingly experiencing a filtered community – ie, Whirlpool itself!”

    Would you care to identify the WE you are discussing? No, I don’t really care who you are, but think about freedoms for while, you are free to keep your identity secret, yet would like to compel the owner of Whirlpool, a private place on the net, into full disclosure.

    To sum it up, Whirlpool is a “private” place where the owner sets the rules of behaviour, people gravitate to places that have rules they sympathise with, would you have the government mandate that all forums MUST follow a set layout and rule system and MUST allow (or disallow) certain discussions etc etc. This attitude seems strange, at one stage you support the freedom of the internet, and at another you desire to compel Whirlpool to follow a set of rules that you would prefer.

    While I agree with you on some of the things you say about governments I disagree strongly on what you seem to feel is “freedom.” You are free to NOT go back to Whirlpool.

  7. User #10 • 9213 posts
    Simon Wright
    is the
    Benevolent Dictator
    :( :| :) :D

    The numbers that Delimiter have are incorrect.

    herring | anchor
    Reply to this post | Send whim
    posted 6 minutes ago (around lunchtime)

  8. renai said: “There’s nothing wrong with publishing the results of a survey into a certain base”

    There is if you don’t have permission to publish private information.

    • hey Simon,

      the Whirlpool survey results were provided to me by an individual who assured me that you had given permission for the information to be dispersed to the media.

      Happy to discuss if you feel we’ve gotten something wrong etc, either drop me a line at renai@delimiter.com.au or on 02 8011 4539.



  9. Methinks journalists will publish anything to get traffic, i.e. advertising revenue. The internet’s advertising model (where revenue is tied to an article and not an entire issue) is destroying the journalistic integrity of online bloggers like delimiter.

    • hey Simon,

      not sure that the advertising issue would affect either Whirlpool or Delimiter — neither site actually has advertising on it. But I’m always open to debating issues of journalistic integrity and so on — one of my favourite past-times in the wee hours of the morning with a few beers ;)

      Let me know if you think I’ve gotten something wrong!



  10. My Sister friend gave me a copy of the source code of the next Microsoft OS and guess what, it’s open source, can you believe it !!

    I’m going to post it on my blog.

  11. Simon, lets talk about the integrity of using sign up data of those who visit your site to harass or stalk them shall we.

    Lets talk integrity. Lets talk about “ghost” accounts. Lets talk about cash for comment. Lets talk about sponsors, who are yours?

    92% of people are against being cyber-stalked.
    How about we question why using this data to track someone down is acceptable.

    Integrity, you make me laugh.

Comments are closed.