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The Snyder Cut Twitter army was fueled by a huge bot battalion

Illustration by Kate Walker

The Snyder Cut Twitter army was fueled by a huge bot battalion


The Future. According to Rolling Stone, the sometimes-toxic online movement to get Warner Bros. to release Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of Justice League (Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon mid-production after he had to step away due to a family emergency) was significantly manufactured by bots. Considering WarnerMedia may have lost over a hundred million dollars because of the project, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut may now be a case study in how the internet can be weaponized against a corporation.

Fake accounts, assemble!
How fake was the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut phenomenon?

  • According to two reports commissioned by WarnerMedia, at least 13% of the accounts (mostly on Twitter, but also Insta and Facebook) behind the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were fake.
  • That’s a considerable margin over the typical 3-5% in most online movements.
  • The data was confirmed by two firms that track the authenticity of online campaigns — Q5id and Graphika.
  • Alethea Group also found that the site that allegedly started the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag and made it go viral was registered to a person who ran an ad agency that marketed its ability to attract bots.

Considering that posts related to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut numbered in the hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) per day for years across socials, that bot traffic is heavy. It also may have been behind Snyder winning the two fan-favorite awards at this year’s Academy Awards.

(Fun fact: after the release of The Snyder Cut on HBO Max, engagement cooled down to around 40,000 posts per day. Suspicious.).

Programmed headache
So how much of an impact did those bots really have? Rolling Stone’s Tatiana Siegel concludes, “a fandom amplified by fake accounts helped shake down a major studio — at an ultimate cost to Warner Bros. of more than $100 million — to re-release a movie that had already bombed years earlier.” Ouch. And because such a significant portion of the fandom was fake, it may have over-hyped the demand for a new version… which could explain why the movie slightly underwhelmed on HBO Max.

But even worse, it means a legion of fake accounts helped spread real vitriol for a number of execs and creatives that were either involved in Justice League that seemed to be in Snyder’s way (Walter Hamada, Ann Sarnoff) and those that were involved in separate projects that seemed to be competing for Justice League’s attention (Adam Wingard, James Gunn). It got so bad that the studio’s security division even had to get involved.

Maybe it’s no wonder that Elon Musk got so worked up about bot counts

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