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Chelsie Aldridge has received online abuse after her entry for the fishing competition had votes docked after Angling Direct found bots had been registering votes CREDIT: EDDIE MULHOLLAND
Fishing competition lands itself in hot water amid cheating and bullying claims
As pastimes go, the normally peaceful pursuit of fishing is not known for attracting controversy. Disputes are usually limited to gently mocking those who exaggerate tales from the riverbank about the size of the one that got away.
But, a fishing competition has become embroiled in a bitter and increasingly personal row about allegations of vote rigging, fraud and bullying forcing organisers to urge angry anglers to “treat each other with respect”.
Angling Direct, a Norfolk-based fishing tackle company, holds an annual photo competition called King of the Catch that sees more than 1,500 anglers submit photographs to the company’s website of themselves holding a prized catch.
The entrants encourage friends and family to vote for them online, resulting in about 17,000 votes cast every year. The four winners with the most votes in four separate categories are then awarded a “once in a lifetime” luxury fishing holiday in Canada or Thailand.
Shortly after opening in July what it describes as “the biggest and best fishing competition”, Angling Direct stripped some entrants of hundreds of votes amid claims many have been cast fraudulently.
Chelsie Aldridge has received online abuse after her entry for the fishing competition had votes docked after Angling Direct found bots had been registering votes
Angling Direct issued a statement saying the “scale and levels of sophisticated counterfeit votes is … jeopardizing the competition” which is “becoming increasingly difficult to police”.
Contestants were enraged voting on some photographs has been suspended and points docked. The company said it had found proof that ‘bots’ - automated software programs - had been unfairly logging votes in an attempt to net the £5,000 prize holidays.
Chelsie Aldridge, a 20-year-old law student from Bromley, Kent, submitted a photograph of her holding a 29lb rare catfish. She had urged family and her numerous social media friends and fishing colleagues to vote for her.
“The purpose of the competition is to get as many votes as possible - I had 1,200 and was in first place,” she said. “But one morning I had an email from Angling Direct saying they had removed 600 because they were convinced they had been placed by bots.
“It was totally disheartening. I had no idea what a ‘bot’ was. It felt like there was a question mark over my conduct. They didn’t actually accuse me of cheating. I wrote to them asking them to investigate it further, adding that I understood it was important to keep the competition fair but I wanted proof of what they were saying.”
She then became a victim of offensive online abuse - known as trolling - and was forced to defend herself against claims she was a cheat.
“I was sent screengrabs of threats made about me on private fishing facebook groups. I really didn’t expect this from the fishing community. I only entered the competition - in reality a publicity stunt for Angling Direct - because I was proud of my catch.”
Bradley Perry, 13, holds his carp catch in the photograph that was eventually withdrawn from the 'Prince of the Catch' category of the competition CREDIT: FAMILY ALBUM
Nathun [CORRECT] Perry withdrew his 13-year-old son, Bradley, from the competition after a photograph of the schoolboy holding a carp moved into first place but then had votes removed by the company after its technical team found logs suggesting bots were being used to automatically log votes.
“My son got up every morning asking how many votes he had got. He was so proud to be winning,” Mr Perry, from Somerset, said. “Out of nowhere his entry was removed. Bradley was gutted. All we had done was share the competition to get votes.”
More info and pix: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/0 ... ng-claims/
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