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Academy's Move Toward Electronic Balloting: Target for Hackers?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 25, 2011 at 4:48AM

The Academy's note to some 5800 members warning them that electronic balloting could be coming by the next awards season is surprising news. The letter from the Academy's director of membership Kimberly Roush asked members for a direct email that did not go through an assistant or intermediary. The Academy is chasing an earlier date for the show.
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Thompson on Hollywood

The Academy's note to some 5800 members warning them that electronic balloting could be coming by the next awards season is surprising news. The letter from the Academy's director of membership Kimberly Roush asked members for a direct email that did not go through an assistant or intermediary. The Academy is chasing an earlier date for the show.

In my pre-Oscar interview with Academy president Tom Sherak, he made his resistance to online ballots quite clear. He was afraid that hackers would find a way to hack into such a visible, juicy target: “I’ve yet to be convinced that you couldn’t find someone to hack into it. Nobody has said to me, ‘you can’t get in.’ The Academy is as pure as the driven snow.” Sherak wanted to stick with paper ballots. “They can hack into the Pentagon!” he says. “The chances of getting online ballots are slim to none.”

Sherak stopped the process of moving up the awards for this past year because “we weren’t ready,” he said. “We can only move it up so far.” Clearly Sherak is losing this battle.

But speed in this case can be hazardous. I worry that in its rush to push forward the Oscar show, the Academy won't give its members enough time to see films in the way they were intended: on the big screen. Are they also going to make streaming and downloading possible in order to get ahead of the competition? New AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson is coming onboard next month. She tried to move screeners online via streaming for Film Independent's Spirit awards and couldn't do it, reports Steve Pond.

What about the foreign, VFX and doc branches, which have longer committee processes to get through before they can make their nominations? There's only so much time between the end of the calendar year, the nominations and the big show.

This article is related to: Awards, Web/Tech, Oscars


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.