As revealed in a new exhibition of Rolling Stone (opens in new tab)the fervent online movement that led to the launch of Zack Snyder’s Justice League was apparently supported by a higher-than-average number of bots and fake accounts.
The Rolling Stone report is based on an investigation commissioned by WarnerMedia, which found that “at least 13% of accounts that participated in the Snyder Cut conversation were found to be fake, well up from the three to five percent that cyber experts say normally see on any trending topic.”
While this still leaves a significant number of legitimate fans in the mix, it has long been argued that fake social media accounts and bots can have a high and significant influence on the opinions and actions of real users and have been used to interfere with elections. (opens in new tab).
Additionally, one of the companies contracted to investigate inauthentic activity within the ‘SnyderVerse (opens in new tab)‘ made another surprising discovery about the forsnydercut.com domain, which is said to be responsible for the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut going viral. According to the Alethea Group, the domain registration was traced back to the owner of a now-defunct advertising agency that advertised the ability to bring “cheap and instant Avatar traffic to your website”.
A digital marketing executive pointed to the huge drop in usage of the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut once the Snyder Cut was released as further evidence, going from “one 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 with investigating suspicious online activities related to the SnyderVerse that led to the launch of Zack Snyder’s Justice League in March 2021. This led to Q5id CTO Becky Wanta to the conclusion that “there is no doubt that bots were involved”.
Wanta added: “There are certain patterns that bots emit that we’ve seen here. They arrive almost at the same time in large numbers. And often the origin of thousands or even millions of messages can be traced to a single source or two. they can be traced to unusual servers in remote countries. And their content will be precisely similar.”
Was Snyder really involved?
While it’s unclear whether Snyder was personally responsible for orchestrating the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, Rolling Stone spoke to “more than 20 people” involved with Justice League’s theatrical and Snyder cuts, with most stating they believe the director worked for ” manipulate the ongoing campaign”. One of the publication’s sources even compared Snyder to “Lex Luthor wreaking havoc.”
Of course, Snyder denies the allegation, suggesting that Warner Bros. likely spawned its own social media campaign “trying to leverage my fanbase to grow subscribers to its new streaming service”.
What’s more intriguing is that no one seems to know who was footing the bill for a campaign that was certainly expensive. The bot army aside, the Rolling Stone report points to a series of “expensive advertising stunts” that took place alongside the movement, which included an “imposing Times Square ad” that was supposed to cost around $50,000 per day, and “a plane flying over Comic Con with a banner urging DC to release the Snyder Cut.”
While we don’t have any answers for now, we imagine this isn’t the last we’ve heard about the controversy surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League. In the meantime, head over to Rolling Stone to Read the full, in-depth report (opens in new tab).