As revealed in a new exposé by Rolling Stone, the fervent online movement that led to the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League was apparently propped up by a larger-than-average number of bots and fake accounts.
Rolling Stone's report is based on an investigation commissioned by WarnerMedia, which found that "at least 13 percent of the accounts that took part in the conversation about the Snyder Cut were deemed fake, well above the three to five percent that cyber experts say they typically see on any trending topic."
While that still leaves a significant number of legitimate fans in the mix, it's long been argued that fake social media accounts and bots can have a loud and significant influence on the opinions and actions of real users, and have been used to interfere with elections.
Additionally, one of the firms hired to investigate inauthentic activity within the 'SnyderVerse' community made another startling discovery regarding the forsnydercut.com domain, which is said to be responsible for the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag going viral. According to Alethea Group, the domain's registration was traced back to the owner of a now-defunct ad agency which advertised the ability to bring "cheap, instant Avatar traffic to your website."
One digital marketing executive pointed to the enormous drop in usage of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag once the Snyder Cut was released as further proof, going from "a million tweets a day" to just 40,000 tweets almost immediately, further stating that, "You don’t see a drop like that organically."
We live in a society... of bots
As part of its own independent investigation, Rolling Stone tasked cybersecurity and social media intelligence firm Q5id to look into suspicious SnyderVerse-related online activity leading up to the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League in March 2021. This led Q5id's CTO Becky Wanta to the conclusion that "there’s no question that bots were involved."
Wanta added, "There are certain patterns that bots give off that we saw here. They arrive at almost the same time in huge numbers. And many times the origin of thousands or even millions of messages can be traced to a single source or two. Sometimes, they can be traced to unusual servers in remote countries. And their content will be precisely similar."
Was Snyder actually involved?
While it's not certain whether Snyder was personally responsible for orchestrating the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, Rolling Stone spoke to "more than 20 people" involved with both the theatrical and Snyder cuts of Justice League, with most stating they believe the director worked to "manipulate the ongoing campaign." One of the publication's sources even compared Snyder to "Lex Luthor wreaking havoc."
Of course, Snyder flat out denies the accusation, implying that Warner Bros. likely generated its own social media campaign by "trying to leverage my fan base to bolster subscribers to their new streaming service."
What's more puzzling is that nobody seems to know who was footing the bill for what was surely a costly campaign. Putting aside the army of bots, Rolling Stone's report points to a number of "pricey publicity stunts" that occurred alongside the movement, which included a "towering Times Square ad", said to be priced in the ballpark of around $50,000 per day, and "a plane flying over Comic Con with a banner calling for DC to release the Snyder Cut."
Although we don't have any answers for the time being, we imagine this isn't the last we've heard of the controversy surrounding Zack Snyder's Justice League. In the meantime, head over to Rolling Stone to read the full, in depth report.
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Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible.
He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.