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Movie oldsters FAIL at internet: Online Oscar voting 'too complex'

Silver-haired members 'don't know how to use computers'

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Attempts to introduce electronic voting for the Oscars are going awry.

Both the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline report that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' new online voting system is too complex to use for an increasingly ageing electorate.

The Academy reportedly worked with Everyone Counts, an electronic voting consultancy that has done work for the US Department of Defense and the UK's Ministry of Justice, to devise a secure system for electronic voting. However the system is so loaded with safeguards and military-type encryption methods to keep hackers and imposters at bay that it has become difficult to use for some registered voters.

One member jokingly told The Hollywood Reporter that "it's easier to break into the CIA" thanks to "military-grade encryption" and other security controls. While usability is crucial to any practical system, usability and security are sometimes wrongly thought of as working against each other. For example, mobile phones are straightforward to use - for voice calls, at least - but these days incorporate voice encryption to prevent casual eavesdropping.

But it looks like the Academy's new system is a little more complicated than that, reportedly including a two-factor authentication process. Members are reportedly required to devise a second password (different and more complex from the one needed to access the Academy's site) and to register a mobile phone number. Users are then asked to authenticate votes using a code sent to their mobile phone number.

Similar systems are employed for electronic banking and wouldn't appear to be over-engineered. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, more than half (54 per cent) of Oscar voters are over 60. A bigger factor, according to Hollywood Reporter, may be that "more than a few members don't even have computers and/or know how to use the internet, which would preclude them not only from streaming screeners, but also from filling out an e-ballot".

A postal balloting system is apparently being used in conjunction with electronic voting for the movie industry's showpiece annual awards but the concern is that those frustrated in their attempts to vote online will simply give up and not bother to vote.

Voting for nominees for the 85th Academy Awards closes on 4 January, with the results due to be announced on 24 February. ®

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