No winner for The Voice Kids after Russian bots rig TV show in favour of pop star’s daughter

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Mikella Abramova looks to the right as she holds a microphone and sings. Her brown hair is down and she wears a black top.
Photo Mikella Abramova, 11, received the highest vote share on The Voice Kids. Supplied: The Voice Kids Russia

The Voice Kids Russia will not announce a winning contestant after the show’s broadcaster, Channel One TV, found evidence of fraud that led to a landslide win for a pop star’s daughter.

Mikella Abramova, the 11-year-old daughter of former Eurovision contestant Alsou and Azerbaijani banker Yan Abramov, received the most votes for the sixth season of the highly popular Golos Dyeti, with 56.5 per cent of the vote.

The contestant in second place trailed far behind Abramova, with just 27.9 per cent of the vote.

A probe was launched after the voting results provoked an outcry on social media, with many users claiming the competition had been rigged because of the abnormally-high number of votes cast for Abramova.

Following an investigation, the state-controlled Channel One TV quoted findings by cybersecurity firm Group-IB that revealed a high proportion of automated votes were sent via text message.

Group-IB said it found only 300 phone numbers generated 8,000 text messages, all voting for Abramova.

‘An external impact was made on the vote’

In a statement on its website, Channel One TV said: “Interim test results confirm that an external impact was made on the vote, which affected the outcome of the show.

“The final report of Group-IB will be provided by the end of May, but already based on intermediate results, Channel One TV [has] decided to cancel the result of the final of the sixth season of The Voice Kids.”

Channel One TV added: “It is important to emphasise that the task of the audit was to confirm or deny the fact of artificially influencing the vote, and not to charge anyone.”

At the same time, it said the children who participated in the competition should not be held accountable for the actions of others.

“What happened in the sixth season of The Voice Kids should be the first and last case when someone tries to control the audience’s choice,” the TV station said, noting steps would be taken to improve voting procedures.

It remains unclear who was behind the rigging.

The Voice Kids is a spin-off from the highly popular international talent show The Voice, a worldwide franchise.

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