According to a report from Rolling Stone, a sizable number of bot and fake accounts aided the zealous online campaign that helped make the “Snyder Cut” version of Justice League possible. In an investigation commissioned by WarnerMedia that RS obtained, it was determined that “at least 13 percent of the accounts that participated in the conversation about the Snyder Cut were deemed fake, far above the three to five percent that cyber experts say they typically see on any trending topic.”
In other words, while there were undoubtedly many real fans who supported the new version, bots disproportionately boosted their voices.
To refresh your memory, director Zack Snyder left Justice League during the editing process for private reasons. Joss Whedon finished the movie as an uncredited director, supervising reshoots and other changes to cut the runtime and boost humor. The movie was a critical and financial failure when it was released in 2017. After that, an online fanbase pushed for the Snyder Cut, which was Snyder’s original, darker vision. It received generally positive reviews after its 2021 release and quickly rose to become HBO Max’s fourth-most watched movie.
A report showed that ‘at least’ 13 percent of online discourse was generated by bots.
However, there were concerns raised about whether the fan interest was entirely natural. Following some serious cyberbullying that included boycott requests, job termination requests, and even death threats, WarnerMedia made the decision to open an investigation. It identified groups “made up of real and fake authors that spread bad content about WarnerMedia for not restoring the ‘SnyderVerse,'” and it harassed Warner Bros.’s then-CEO Ann Sarnoff as well as other executives and creatives involved in the project.
There is no doubt that bots were involved, according to Rolling Stone, which hired a security firm to look into any suspicious activity. The forsnydercut.com domain was linked to a defunct ad agency that had advertised “cheap, instant Avatar traffic to your website,” according to another company WarnerMedia used to look into suspicious activity surrounding it. Although it’s unclear what, if any, part Snyder played in the online campaign, he stoked the flames on social media with posts that included a picture labeled “JL Director’s Cut Running Time 214 [minutes].”
The report illustrates the power but also the dangers of fandom, as we alluded to in our analysis of Zack Snyder’s Justice League from a year ago. Devindra Hardawar of Engadget wrote that while there are effective ways to affect change for any aspect of popular culture, sending death threats and shouting at each other on social media should not become the norm.