According to a new study, a significant portion of online trolls who have directed angry messages towards the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Last Jedi may be internet bots who aim to create a polarizing rift amongst the community in similar ways to how the technology influenced the 2016 presidential election.
Morten Bay, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, shared the abstract of his upcoming publication about his study, which claims "that while it is only a minority of Twitter accounts that tweet negatively about The Last Jedi, organized attempts at politicizing the pop culture discourse on social media for strategic purposes are significant enough that users should be made aware of these measures, so they can act accordingly."
His essay, Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, has yet to be published so it is unclear how he obtained his data to arrive at his points.
In the nine months since the film was released, one fact that has emerged is that it is an incredibly divisive film in the saga. Given that the movie is a piece of art, it's difficult to apply objective statistics that define the reaction to the film, with each side contextualizing data to make their points.
For instance, the film earned $1.3 billion worldwide, which can be seen as evidence of the film's successes, while detractors will note how this sum is smaller than what Star Wars: The Force Awakens made, "confirming" this chapter was a failure. While fans of the film will cite that The Last Jedi earned 91 percent positive reviews from critics, those disappointed with the film note that 45 percent of the site's users didn't enjoy the film.
The abstract claims, "The study finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments. 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 also notes that his study looked specifically at Twitter users who engage with The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson directly and might not include all messages on all social media platforms.
"The results of the study show that among those who address The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson directly on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction, more than half are bots, trolls/sock puppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality," the piece describes. "A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls."
What we know for certain is that some people like the movie while others disliked the movie and many are taking to social media to merely argue with one another.
Are you surprised that accounts may have been created merely to cause friction amongst fans? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!