We knew that news of the internet would eventually reach the producers of American Idol. This year, for the first time, Idol viewers can cast their votes electronically. And you know what that means: huge opportunities for vote manipulation. Will voter fraud hamper the new system?
Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of American Idol somewhat hesitantly confirmed that American Idol will allow contestants to vote via the internet this year, for the very first time. [Source: Mansfield, Brian. “Idol Chatter: Candid commentary on American Idol performances,” USA Today, 2/22/2011. Downloaded from: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/idolchatter/post/2011/02/nigel-lythgoe-plans-online-voting-beatles-cutbacks/1]
This news must make the more devious American Idol contestants absolutely giddy, because it provides huge potential vote manipulation opportunities. I can just about guarantee that the folks over at VoteForTheWorst.com (the hilarious website that tries to subvert American Idol each year by encouraging visitors to vote for the least talented people on the show) are developing plans to take advantage of whatever on-line system Lythgoe and company introduce.
Internet voting will be much less reliable than cell phone voting because e-mail access is easy to get, while cell phone numbers are not easy to get. There is a very real cost to purchasing a cell phone; even a cheap pre-paid phone costs money. But on-line voting will presumably be based on one’s e-mail address, Facebook profile, or other virtual property, and a determined voter could easily set up multiple accounts.
In the past, friends of American Idol contestants would gather on voting nights with dozens of prepaid phones and make repeated phone calls to help their candidates. Now, anyone should be able to sit at home and vote repeatedly on-line. Lazy voters could even set up automated systems to cast votes from multiple accounts.
Surely, the American Idol producers have thought about these issues, and I suspect that they have some kind of solution in mind. But the most sophisticated television producer is no match for a 13-year-old computer hacker. If Idol’s voting goes on-line, I am absolutely confident that it will immediately be abused far beyond anything that the producers have imagined.
Mansfield, Brian. “Idol Chatter: Candid commentary on American Idol performances,” USA Today, 2/22/2011. Downloaded from: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/idolchatter/post/2011/02/nigel-lythgoe-plans-online-voting-beatles-cutbacks/1