An aside, the original headline claims that this was the work of “politically motivated Russian trolls” but the text states that the material was released from “Twitter bots or trolls” and that “a number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”
One might expect the editors of a story depicting the absurd power of traditional and media and social media to influence or fabricate a story would have been more careful to avoid doing just that.
Mind you, the conclusion that the plan was to ensure that “fandom conflict” would serve “to and further (propagate) a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society” is itself creating a fictional conclusion.
The bottom line really is this: we can’t trust anything we read, whether political news or film reviews. JP
02 October 2018 | Andrew Pulver | The Guardian
More than half of the hostile responses to The Last Jedi, episode eight of the Star Wars saga, were politically motivated trolling or the result of non-human bot activity, according to an academic paper published by a US digital media expert.
Morten Bay, a research fellow at the University of Southern California (USC), analysed Twitter activity about the film and concluded that more than 50% of posts are by “bots, trolls/sockpuppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme rightwing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality. A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”
The supposed fan hostility to The Last Jedi is a well-known phenomenon, with actors such as Kelly Marie Tran experiencing extreme levels of abuse, and campaigns cropping up to lower the film’s rating on critics’ aggregators and fund a remake.
However, Bay’s research indicates that not only are negative comments on social media about the film in a minority, but the “anti-Jedi” campaign has been designed to serve a wider political purpose.
“The study finds evidence of deliberate, organised political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” Bay writes. 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.”
Bay analysed the 960-plus accounts which had tweets aimed directly at Last Jedi director Rian Johnson for the seven months after the film opened on 13 December 2017. He found that 21.9% of users – less than a quarter – expressed a negative opinion of the film. After stripping out bots/trolls and users who had what he describes as “clear political agendas”, that figure dropped to 10.5%. Bay concluded that real fan hostility to the film is much less than has previously been reported.
Of this negative group, Bay established that 50.9% were “likely politically motivated or not even human”. This included 5% of posts by bots, 16% by trolls or sockpuppets (of which half appeared to be Russian trolls), and close to 30% by users with political agendas.
The Last Jedi’s director, Rian Johnson, retweeted the paper, writing “what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online”. He added: “And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I’ve had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff. That’s what fandom is all about. This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment.”