Bots have been used to influence the result of the Russian talent show, The Voice Kids, a spin-off from The Voice.
In a stunning revelation, it was discovered that many votes for the winner, 10yo Mikella Abramova, the daughter of pop singer Alsou and millionaire, Yan Abramov, had come from 'sequential phone numbers had been used to send automated votes'. In other words, bots.
"More than 30,000 votes came in for one contestant from those phone numbers," said cyber security firm, Group-IB, while rival singers received under 3,000 votes each. The 30,000 votes amounted to 56.5% of the phone-in vote, enough to raise suspicions. As the old saying goes, if it appears too good to be true, it probably is, and it was in this case.
State-owned Channel One TV responded to the complaints by asking Group-IB - an official partner of Interpol and Europol - to inspect its voting technology.
While the size of the victory raised suspicions, it didn't help that Mikella's mother, Alsou, had called upon her two million Instagram followers to support her daughter.
Channel One said in a statement, "The Voice Kids is all about giving a positive experience to each participant. We plan to celebrate all the kids' remarkable talent with a special one-off show on May 24, in which all the season finalists and the semi-finalists will perform."
A full report into the scam is due to be released later this month. In the meantime, a new voting mechanism will be in place before the next season of the talent show.