Within a matter of minutes of the online voting platform opening for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2017, the site crashed – leaving viewers across the world unable to vote for their favourite songs of the evening and unable to contribute to the final result.
How Did the Online Vote Work?
Voting was open to anyone from any country, irrespective of participation. Anyone who wanted to cast their vote was able to do so online via junioreurovision.tv after watching rehearsal clips of each of the 16 participating songs. All users wishing to cast their vote were required to select a minimum of three countries and a maximum of five. For anyone living in the participating countries, it was possible to vote for their own country.
Voting was frozen at 15:59 CET on November 26th, just before the live broadcast of the contest from the Olympic Palace in Tbilisi. Once all sixteen songs had been performed, online voting was set to re-open for another fifteen minutes. Each song was then to be given points based on the percentage of the online vote received.
Earlier this week, Eurovoix and ESCXTRA exposed a loophole in the system that made the online voting platform open to mass voter manipulation.
Nothing prevented users from accessing the new online voting platform for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest via VPN (Virtual Private Network). This allows users to appear as though they are visiting a web page from another country using remote server connections. There are various VPN services available on the internet, many of which are totally free to use and do not require a subscription. This left the platform susceptible to manipulation on an individual, commercial and international scale, even outside the Union’s broadcasting zone.
If that wasn’t simple enough, users were able to create a new instance of the voting platform by simply opening multiple browsers. Google Chrome’s ‘Incognito Mode’, for example, is a unique session that allowed users to submit another set of votes, in addition to those cast using the ‘tracked’ browser in its normal mode.
In effect, it was possible to vote on both mobile devices and personal computers as many times as you like, in private browsing windows, even using the most basic, readily available internet browsing software.
This new addition to the voting system was open for any fan, located anywhere in the world, to vote for any participating nation. This means that it is legitimately possible to vote for your own country. The reverse of this; not voting for your own country in the contest, is a rule that has always been deemed entirely essential to make every Eurovision event fair, unswayed by population, uniform across the Eurovision Family of Events.
Despite last year’s dwindling viewing figures, there is an extremely high percentage of viewers based in two of the most populous nations entering in the competition – Russia and Poland. It was entirely possible for this vote to be swayed completely by voters in the aforementioned nations to increase their country’s own share of the overall online vote. The countries that received the top three set of points from the public; Australia, Malta and the Netherlands, all have particularly high viewer statistics for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest – suggesting the possibility of some truth to the theory.
In 2014, this system was trialled in a different form – crashing during the opening minute of the voting window on the night. This was ultimately abandoned and did not have any effect on the scoreboard. Whether this was the case for the 2017 edition is yet to be revealed.
At that time, Junior Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor, Vladislav Yakovlev, stated that “[the event] had around 4,000 online viewers in 2014 and [we] thought that online voting might raise that figure to around 8,000. We thought that Sound of data were being extra-careful with 15,000”.
The European Broadcasting Union then stated at the Winners’ Press Conference that “in the first three seconds alone, 37,000 online viewers clicked to cast their vote online”.
Statement from the European Broadcasting Union
Earlier today, less than two hours before the Junior Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast live from Tbilisi, the European Broadcasting Union contacted Eurovoix to comment on this year’s online voting system.
“This year, a new online voting format was introduced alongside the Jury vote, allowing viewers across the world to cast votes for their favourite artists. This new platform was introduced with the aim of bringing the Junior Eurovision Song Contest to as wide an audience as possible, and to give the viewers at home the chance to have their say as to who should win the contest. The EBU has worked with our technical partners to ensure that the platform can deliver a fair and valid result.”
– Received midday, 26th of November 2017, from a representative acting on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union.
Whether or not the ‘fair and valid’ result the European Broadcasting Union hoped to deliver was actually implemented to generate the final results is currently unknown. Earlier this evening, the European Broadcasting Union published a second statement, this time directly to the official Junior Eurovision Song Contest Facebook page.
“After a first assessment of the voting platform, it appears that one of the security features responsible for ensuring that only one vote per user could reach the system caused a delay.
While we constantly received votes on our platform, unfortunately there were delays for some users, which resulted in them not be able to reach the voting website. In total we received nearly 330,000 votes, from more than 100 countries, which is a great indication of how popular this year’s show was around the world.”
– Published on the official Junior Eurovision Song Contest Facebook page, 26th of November 2017, by the European Broadcasting Union.
Jon Ola Sand, the EBU’s Head of Live Events, later added…
“The performances this year were incredible and we’re proud to see how the Junior Eurovision Song Contest keep supporting young artists and bringing them in front of an international audience. Our online voting platform was a new addition this year, and we were pleased with the huge level of votes we received from all over the world. Our intention was to open the Contest up to a wider audience than previous competitions and we are pleased that we were able to do this.”
Sixteen countries took part in the contest, including returning country Portugal, absent from the contest since 2008. It was Russia who came out on top, winning the contest for the second time. Polina Bogusevich won the competition with her song “Wings”.