Russia’s state-run television has canceled the results of a popular children’s singing competition after cyber experts uncovered online vote-rigging that favored the 11-year-old daughter of a celebrity and a banker.
Channel One hired the Group-IB international cybersecurity firm to investigate claims that “The Voice Kids”’ vote-by-phone system was tampered with in April. Group-IB’s initial investigation showed that bots had cast 8,000 text-message votes from 300 phone numbers for Mikella Abramova, daughter of popular singer Alsou and banker Yan Abramov.
The results prompted Channel One to announce that a do-over of the final will be held next Friday, May 24. It did not say if viewers will be able to vote for a winner in the new round.
“What happened … should become the first and last case of someone trying to manipulate the audience’s choice,” the TV channel said in a statement Thursday.
The show’s rights owner, the Dutch company Talpa Media, said it “regrets” that the votes were rigged. “We believe that the special one-time concert will showcase the talents of all finalists and semifinalists,” it told Russia’s RBC news website.
Group-IB founder and CEO Ilya Sachkov said the final results of the investigation into the child singing competition scam will be confirmed later this month.
Abramova turned 11 on April 29, when Channel One announced its investigation in response to the wave of vote-rigging allegations.