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https://i.imgur.com/TOLmH80.jpg

The Russian version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" had to scrap the "ask audience lifeline as the audience would intentionally give the wrong answer.

This image can be found (for example) on Reddit with 36k upvotes.

Is this claim true for Russian or any other version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"?

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    Is there a notable source for this claim? – user253751 Mar 31 at 13:24
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    @DJClayworth Boaty McBoat Face? It's quite possible strangers can conspire to sabotage something, since it's much easier to break things than create things. Further, it's actually in the remaining audience members' interests if the current candidate fails, as they'll have another chance to be the candidate. – fredsbend Mar 31 at 14:57
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    @DJClayworth - it doesn't have to be a conspiracy, it could be just general public begrudgery. A pity the screenshot in that meme doesn't show an example of 'Ask the audience' – colmde Mar 31 at 16:36
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    If the screenshot was meant to show an example of 'sabotage', then I'm pretty sure it's wrong. Like all the examples from the Laurel's answer, it's much better explained by ignorance or stupidity rather than sabotage. In this specific example, an overwhelming majority of people have no idea what the correct answer is, with all options being somewhat plausible. At the same time, all Russians know that all these Central Asian -stans are most famous for their melons, so they would likely answer this way. – Zeus Apr 1 at 0:26
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    I've previously heard it claimed - many years ago - that the Russian audience would engage in such sabotage, but never that they had to remove the feature. My impression was that it was considered part of the charm of that particular localized version. – Karl Knechtel Apr 1 at 1:49
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The Ask the Audience lifeline was removed from the show, but the reason is straightforward: they had to get rid of the audience due to COVID concerns. According to the Millionaire wiki, this change happened in all versions of the show.

The Russian version (Кто хочет стать миллионером?) had the Ask the Audience lifeline from February 19, 2001 to March 21, 2020. This is pretty easy to verify because the icon is the same: three silhouettes. I found a video showing that icon in three episodes: 2003, 2013, and 2017. Other videos show it in episodes from 2001, 2005, 2018 and January 2020. The same icon is present in the September 26, 2020 episode, but it’s greyed out because there’s no audience.

I also found out that the Philippines version removed Ask the Audience in 2010 (see 2013 video), though the reason for this isn’t clear.

But there are examples where the audience appears to sabotage the contestant. For example, a contestant on the French version used Ask the Audience:

Qu’est-ce qui gravite autour de la Terre ? (What revolves around the earth?)
A: La Lune (The moon)
B: Le Soleil (The sun)
C: Mars
D: Vénus (Venus)

56% chose B, 42% chose A, and 2% chose C. The correct answer is A

After the contestant chose his answer (the wrong one selected by the majority of the audience) and before the correct one was announced, you can hear some people laughing.

This example is cited in the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (section quoted in full here), which makes a number of claims about how much the audience can be trusted. It looks to be the source of the claim that Russian audiences are often untrustworthy, though they don’t explain how they determined this. They also say that the US audience gets the answer right 90% of the time.

I also found an answer on Quora from someone who said they were on the show and voted on the wrong answer on purpose, contributing to the 5% who voted for that particular wrong answer. (Interesting even if it doesn’t prove much.)

The audience does sometimes get the answer 100% unanimously wrong, though there are only a few examples of this happening, none from the Russian version. (These may not be examples of purposeful sabotage.)

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  • I've seen that article as well as this part from Millionaire Wiki on Ask Audience "Most versions, at one point, but removed in some versions due to the audience purposely voting for the wrong answer.", as well as Reddit thread with same claim with bunch of comments agreeing how russians are terrible to themselves. I don't think those are the source of the rumor, maybe article is. I guess it's best info that could be found, so thank you. – Deo Apr 2 at 8:47
  • This is Reddit thread, if you're curious. No pic there, I misremembered it. reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/3hbr8y/… – Deo Apr 2 at 8:51
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Is this claim true for Russian [...] version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"?

Can't say for all nations, but that particular screenshot doesn't match the claim in any way.

That Reddit picture was posted on November 30, 2018 (that is long before the pandemic). And the question pictured there is the 6th question from a game on September 17th, 2011 (Google translate). The players answered that question without any hints. "Ask the audience" option was actually used in another question 11, and unfortunately the most popular answer of the audience was, indeed, wrong - that happens sometimes, and there's no indication that the audience did that on purpose. The option wasn't removed then, and it was still available in the following games: 1 2 3.

So the screenshot definitely doesn't support the claim.

And these days the "audience" option is off due to the pandemic. See the explanation in this news media article (Google translate):

But, unfortunately, these participants will not be able to use the "Help from the audience" hint, since the program is filmed without spectators in the studio in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Edit: I used references to a Wiki site because they can be translated easily. I think I can find those games on Youtube, but there will be no English subtitles to prove the point.

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