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Star Wars: Russian Bots May Have Derailed The Last Jedi

03 October 2018

And we should point out that, of all the tweets Bay looked at, only 21% were negative to start with. In his paper, Bay writes that the Russian trolls are trying to spread political messages by inserting themselves in pop culture discussions and dividing the fandom along liberal and conservative lines.

Bay does acknowledge that not all of the negative reactions are from bots or political trolls of course, noting in the study that there are certainly many real moviegoers who simply dislike the movie.

"Overall, 50.9 percent of those tweeting negatively was likely politically motivated or not even human", Bay wrote.

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Now, if you're wondering why Russian Federation would care about the Twitter reaction to a Star Wars movie, you're probably not alone - but Bay has some thoughts on that.

He asserts that more than half of the social media users who directly expressed their distaste for the movie to Johnson, for example, were trolls, bots or some variation of the two.

"The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society", theorized Bay about his findings.

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Now, it appears that online trolls were behind at least some of the rabid blowback, according to an academic report from journalist and author Morten Bay.

Russian "bots" were also out to have their say on Star Wars previous year, launching a "coordinated effort" (according to Johnson) to ensure that the villainous General Armitage Hux survived in the Last Jedi movie. Actress Kelly Marie Tran, for example, was trolled so badly by racist fans taking issue with her character and performance that she opted to quit social media.

So why go after Star Wars? "Russian trolls weaponize Star Wars criticism as an instrument of information warfare with the goal of pushing for political change, while it is weaponized by right-wing fans to forward a conservative agenda and for some it is a pushback against what they perceive as a feminist/social justice onslaught". While fans of the film will cite that The Last Jedi earned 91 percent positive reviews from critics, those disappointed with the film note that 45 percent of the site's users didn't enjoy the film.

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A new study (h/t The Hollywood Reporter) dives into The Last Jedi online backlash and the negative tweets that swarmed Johnson's Twitter account in the weeks and months following the film's release. "This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment". "I've had tons of great talks with great fans - online and off - who liked and disliked stuff". You can ready the full study at Research Gate.

Star Wars: Russian Bots May Have Derailed The Last Jedi