According to Entertainment Weekly, American Idol 10 will have Internet voting through Facebook. There are several potential problems that come to mind immediately that could skew the Idol results. It is impossible to say exactly what effect online voting will have on the results. But there are several dangers that could make the already-controversial text voting seem like an afterthought.
First, this could skew the voting toward a younger demographic. It is no secret that Facebook is all the rage for all age groups. But this is particularly true for the younger generations that have grown up with computers. Many older people watch the show but did not even have a computer class when they attended high school. Now, I am not convinced that this is unfair, though. After all, phone-in voting is available to virtually everyone.
But the bigger problem is that of multiple accounts. While there is reportedly a limit of 50 votes for American Idol for Facebook voting, that is going to be 50 votes per account. And while it is technically against the rules to create more than one personal Facebook account, that is not going to stop some people from using aliases to create additional accounts. While it is obviously not clear how many crazed fans will do this, the potential unfairness still exists.
Yet, the issue of multiple accounts is also not necessarily a problem. The reason for this is that, even if people do break the rules and vote under multiple aliases, those votes may be roughly in proportion to the overall vote, anyway.
No, multiple accounts are not the biggest potential danger. That danger would be foreign voting. The problem with foreign voting is that contestants with no strong ethnic or historical ties to a different country will be at a disadvantage to those who do have such ties.
For example, any Filipino will have an instant advantage over the other contestants if Filipinos are able to get in votes. Thia Megia must be loving this online voting thing about now. This is perfectly fine for Filipino Americans, as all Americans have a right to vote on Idol for any reason. But it is not fair if votes are coming in from another country because it creates a “World Idol” situation that favors the contestant with ties to another country.
Now, I am guessing it will be against the rules for anyone but Americans to vote. But there are proxies that can be used to mask a user’s location. And it is child’s play putting some place in America as your current location. If someone wants to vote, there are ways of voting.
The likelihood is that this will have a minimal effect. But the danger is still there. Nothing can be done about the fact that a singer comes from a more populous state. In fact, no one from California has ever won, so that is not necessarily a great advantage at all. The same will probably be true in this case. Nonetheless, I can’t think of a good reason why American Idol would want to run such an unnecessary risk.
James Hibberd, “‘American Idol’ adding online voting via Facebook'”, Entertainment Weekly