The Voice Kids: Russian reality TV show hit by vote-rigging row

Cybersecurity firm investigates voting after landslide win for pop star’s daughter

Russian state television has ordered an investigation into possible vote-rigging in a cherished institution of direct democracy: the popular singing competition The Voice Kids.

The final of the show’s sixth season ended in scandal at the weekend after the daughter of a Russian pop star won a landslide victory, igniting claims on social media that the vote had been manipulated.

“Alsou’s daughter won but the country was against it,” screamed the front page of Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the country’s most popular tabloids, on Monday.

Eleven-year-old Mikella Abramova won 56.5% of the vote, beating two younger boys who earned 27.9% and 15.6%. Сritics focused on the 80,000-vote difference between first and second place, a lead that the channel admitted was “anomalous”.

It has not been shown she won because of any manipulation of the vote, which is tallied by voice calls and text messages, but the public backlash has forced the channel to address questions about voting transparency. It first ordered a recount and on Monday announced it would order a comprehensive investigation.

“We cannot allow any shadow to be thrown on the integrity of The Voice,” said Konstantin Ernst, Channel One’s general director. “Especially because we are talking about a competition with children.”

The channel announced on Monday that it had contracted a cybersecurity company to investigate for possible tampering, including the possible use of bots to generate fake votes.

It said experts from Group-IB would hold an independent investigation, including an evaluation of the information security of the vote-counting system, an analysis of telephone calls and text messages used to vote, the possible use of bots, and other methods of “dishonest competition”.

“We must understand whether it is technically possible to meddle in the elections for The Voice,” said Ilya Sachkov, the general director of Group-IB. “Can a partner company, aggregating calls and SMS messages, or its employees affect the results of the vote?”

Contributor

Andrew Roth in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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