SeaWorld Taints Orlando Business Journal's ‘Blackfish’ Poll in Its Own Favor (Updated)

SeaWorld Taints Orlando Business Journal's 'Blackfish' Poll in Its Own Favor (Updated)

As of Thursday, 54 percent of the votes — or about 180 of the total 328 votes — were linked to a SeaWorld IP Address

SeaWorld is trying really hard to beat the bad rap that “Blackfish” has given it, and close to 200 of the company's employees weighed in on a local media outlet's poll asking readers if the documentary changed their perception of the aquatic theme park.

As of midday on Thursday, the Orlando Business Journal poll reflected roughly 99 percent of the participants chose “no,” but then skeptical reporter Richard Bilbao did some digging. Turned out 54 percent of the votes — or about 180 of the total 328 votes — were linked to a single SeaWorld IP Address.

Also read: Hard-Hitting IDA Awards Nominees Include Documentaries ‘Act of Killing,’ ‘Blackfish,’ ‘Stories We Tell’

When Bilbao contacted the company, a spokesman didn't deny it, and instead emphasized that the park's employees are “encouraged” to defend their employer.

“Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company, and we encourage them to make their opinions known,” SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said. ”We have three parks and our corporate offices in Orlando. You would expect that we would have a lot of team members in Orlando — and throughout our company — who would vote. If a poll goes up regarding SeaWorld, our team members have as much a right to vote as anyone else, and vote they did.”

Gollattscheck added to TheWrap: “We're unsure why that's being questioned here. In this case, each of the votes that came from a SeaWorld domain were cast by team members who are passionate about the incredible work SeaWorld does and the experiences our parks provide.”

Bilbao noted that the company didn't have to participate in the poll for it to swing in its favor at the time, since taking out the 180 votes from SeaWorld employees would have still left the poll at 95 percent in favor of the park.

That number figure, however, has changed dramatically in a day.

75 percent of the site's 3,481 poll participants currently say, “Yes,” the documentary has changed their perception of SeaWorld. 25 percent say, “No.”

“Blackfish,” directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, investigates three deaths at SeaWorld — including top trainer Dawn Brancheau – linked to killer whale Tilikum, who was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983. The film explores the whale's aggressive behavior to highlight the negative effects of captivity, including a shortened lifespan compared to killer whales that live in the wild.

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and has since been released in theaters by Magnolia Pictures and then aired on CNN.

  • chadg

    Seaworld is obviously a corrupt and terrible company. The film sheds light on only one aspect, I am not at all surprised that they would attempt to fix poll numbers. These are big corporate heads here, they will go to great lengths to make sure they can bring in big bucks.

    • Karl Malloy

      I think you need to read the stories on this all again. The company came out and said (paraphrase) “if someone who works at SeaWorld wants to vote in a poll, how is that fixing it?” They didn't say they told them to vote, they said they are happy to have them express themselves in online polls, and there's no reason that a SeaWorld employee shouldn't! One could easily make the case that the poll, which was originally in a small Orlando-only business journal, is now more tainted than ever – with the influx of hectoring voices from around the globe weighing in. I'm quite certain that the writer of a poll in the Orlando Business Journal didn't intend to query housewives from California and college professors from the UK on their opinion on the matter, but rather the corporate population of Orlando, FL. Funny, there are a lot of Sea World employees in that population – how odd!

  • Anonymous

    A comment about this piece:

    “As of midday on Thursday, the Orlando Business Journal poll reflected roughly 99 percent of the participants chose “no,” but then skeptical reporter Richard Bilbao did some digging. Turned out 54 percent of the votes — or about 180 of the total 328 votes — were linked to a single SeaWorld IP Address.”

    There's no lip service to the fact that roughly the other 46% also choice “no…”

    • Serene

      Did you not read the rest of the article? ”

      That number figure, however, has changed dramatically in a day.

      75 percent of the site’s 3,481 poll participants currently say, “Yes,” the documentary has changed their perception of SeaWorld. 25 percent say, “No.””

  • FTBC

    328 people voted, of which 325 said blackfish didn't change their perception. Take out the 180 from Sea World, and you get 148 people voting, 145 still saying “no”.

    Seaworld didn't fix this poll. This outrage has been manufactured.

    • Serene

      Did you read the rest of the article?

      “That number figure, however, has changed dramatically in a day.

      75 percent of the site’s 3,481 poll participants currently say, “Yes,” the documentary has changed their perception of SeaWorld. 25 percent say, “No.””

      • FTBC

        Yeah. After this got all manner of negative publicity on sites that are critical of Sea World, their critics have shown up en masse to vote “yes”. Of course it went that way, I wouldn't have expected any other outcome.

    • Aj

      Are you actually defending these scumbags? Incredible..,smh

      • FTBC

        I'm reserving judgment, as there is no clear evidence that anything more happened than a bunch of employees voting from behind the firewall. 180 people isn't even that many for a park that size. If they did engage in systematic vote-rigging, they did a terrible job at it. I could have done it better with a laptop, a tank of gas, and half a day driving around town.

        As for the rest of the pre-publicity votes, I think it's a lot more likely that most of the people who happened upon that poll while surfing that local news site had never seen Blackfish. So I don't think it's particularly alarming that 145 people in Orlando said that the film didn't have any effect on their views of SeaWorld.

        What I find more alarming is how many people are taking the film as holy writ. Does the information presented in Blackfish warrant real investigation? Sure. Should it be accepted as unbiased fact? Not at all. Here's the thing about almost everyone who crusades for animal rights: they only show you the information they want you to see. Like most activists, they're far more concerned with recruiting you into the movement than they are with the truth.

    • Tililuv

      FTBC: ahhh soo you're saying that 145 of the 180 Sea World-affiliated voters in this poll then went home and voted as well (with their homes’ different IP addresses). That actually does make sense.

  • Mary

    Well it [blackfish] certainly changed my views of SeaWorld. More so because of all the deception involved on the part of SeaWorld executives. Very shady. Who wants to support a company who purposefully left out crucial information and kept their trainers in the dark.

    • Mary

      and in my opinion, caused the deaths of all three people (the deception).

  • lisad1979

    I think the poll is poorly worded – maybe some people voted “no” because they already thought Seaworld was a terribly company so viewing Blackfish would not have changed that.

    • Jessy

      Its worded pretty well. Did the movie change your perception of seaworld…..simple yes or no

      • Bezzzz

        I believe what lisad1979 means to say is the spirit of the poll is not reflected in the question. Someone who chooses “yes” could mean that they now have a more favourable view of Seaworld… and someone who chooses “no” may have already had a negative view of Seaworld. I agree 100% that the question is not worded appropriately – good catch lisad1979.

        • Karl Malloy

          If you and lisad1979 want to create a poll that asks people if they think worse of SeaWorld because of this documentary, by all means do so. But the fact that you find that question most relevant doesn't mean that this pollster also had that “spirit”. You're reading into this exactly what you want it to be, but it's possible the poll writer asked exactly what they meant!

  • soCalnative

    100% of the people I've spoken with are 100% opposed to Sea World or any aquarium holding whales hostage from their oceans…may the “wave” of support continue in favor of our fellow mammals…

  • Abby

    They're just digging themselves into a deeper hole by doing this kind of crap.

    • Jessy

      Just close all 3 parks they're monsters and the trainers are in the dark for years before they realize what's going on.

      • Jessica Cejnar

        What do you do with the animals if the parks are shut down? You can't just release them all into the wild.

        • James Wilde

          Some yes,. Others could be held in a my h larger are outside of the park but fenced off from the rest of the ocean. What if w told a hostage they were not aloud out of the closet they were being held captive in because we didn't know what to do with them? We need to free them as much as possible and take them off display for our enjoyment.

  • JmeLynn

    It doesn't surprise me that Seaworld would try to fix the votes. Sad part is, people are STILL going to pay to go to this park daily. Even after the movie, even after clearly being outted on trying to fix the poll! Sickening….

    • Sheila Wells Benoit

      I think if there was some way that this movie was shown in every classroom in the U.S., particularly in elementary schools, then we would see a major drop in attendance.

      • Jessica Cejnar

        Rather than showing this movie in elementary schools, I would just teach those kids about orcas in general: their anatomy, their behavior, including how long they live in the wild and how intelligent they are, where they live, etc. I would also talk about the ethics of keeping any animal in captivity. If those kids learn about how intelligent and social these animals are, they'll be able to challenge the misinformation Sea World tries to dish out.

  • h20bobo

    Actually, the movie did not change my view of Sea World at all. 20+ years ago I went to the park, saw the Orcas in captivity, and decided at that moment Sea World was never going to see me enter one of their parks again. The movie only emphasized to me what complete and utter money grabbing pricks these people are.

  • babygirl

    Sea world is the shit! Silver member for life!

    • Aj

      You're disgusting

    • Sarah

      I hope for your sake that karma doesn't come around, and one day you are held somewhere against your will… forced to do disgusting acts for food.

  • JOHN

    there corporation is corrupt and should b shut down to allow any death to a person and then blame trainers for the wrong doing is immoral !!! I now live in fla and will never buy a product or go to sea world they r scum!!!!!! free tilly

  • Jessica Cejnar

    I have had a negative perception of SeaWorld since my last visit when I was 21. Blackfish didn't change my perception of the theme park at all, so in this poll I would have voted no. That said, I think the folks clamoring about boycotting SeaWorld and shutting it down miss one very important aspect of the film Blackfish. The creator has said repeatedly that she doesn't think SeaWorld should shut down. She acknowledges the conservation and wildlife rescue work the company does, as well as its role in making kids care about the ocean and marine life in general. What she says she would like to see SeaWorld do is stop making orcas perform. She talks about how the company could work with its younger orcas to release them out into the wild and for its older orcas release them to sea pens — whole coves and inlets that are penned in — where they could have the experience of being in the ocean and still receive the care they need. SeaWorld will probably not want to do this, but if people vote with their dollars and refuse to visit and tell SeaWorld execs why, it would go a whole lot further than shouting that it should be shut down.

  • James Wilde

    I sit here in my Sea Shepherd Hoodie thinking I would have answered “no” as we'll because I thought they were scuzbags to begin with.