Oprah vs. Zach Anner

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Has Oprah's reality TV show contest been rigged? For weeks, contestants who submitted audition videos have been competing in an online poll to host their own television show. Early on, the contest spawned an Internet sensation in Zach Anner, a wheelchair-bound 25-year-old with cerebral palsy. For the last week, Anner was blowing away the competition. Then Tuesday came and another contestant, Doctor Phyllis, soared ahead. But many allege that the network artificially increased Phyllis's votes, which has led to accusations of discrimination. Is there reason to believe the contest was rigged? Here's what Anner fans are arguing:

In the span of an hour around or just before 3pm EDT, the woman who had been trailing Anner for some time, Doctor Phyllis, took the lead. And she did so at what sounds to be an unbelievable rate. The Huffington Post reports an increase of 300,000 votes in 20 minutes. Reddit reports 600,000 in an hour. Either way, the voting rates being bandied around are astounding, corroborate with what many Internet denizens who have been following the proceedings saw, and justly aroused suspicion.

Following up on their suspicions, Anner fans noticed that the online voting poll had been tampered with. Specifically, "the source code for Phyllis' 'Vote' button differed from that of all the other contestants." Later on the source code was switched back. But sometime during that window, Doctor Phyllis's votes skyrocketed, which fueled more suspicion:

Mathematically, it would fit nearly perfectly with for that mysterious coding to have given Phyllis two free votes every time Zach received a vote, in addition to the votes Phyllis otherwise received. But while the math seems to work well for most of his time window, there is no way to confirm this algorithm was actually implemented, especially now that the coding for the button has been reverted to its original form.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Anner's fans on 4chan and Reddit believe their contestant was wronged. Luckily for them, there's still time for Anner to win more votes. So in typical (creepy) 4chan fashion they've been canvassing hard:

No word yet from the Oprah camp. If you haven't seen Anner's audition video yet, it's well worth watching:

Zach's oprah deal from Zach Anner on Vimeo.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.