Rotten Tomatoes changes its “Audience Score” to combat review-bombing trolls

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Rotten Tomatoes changes its "Audience Score" to combat review-bombing trolls 4

Another day, another big Hollywood blockbuster that happens to either wear its politics on its sleeve or have outspoken creators getting its Rotten Tomatoes rating trashed by trolls. As we mentioned last week, Captain Marvel is the latest film to find itself in the crosshairs of a group of, frankly, pathetic individuals whose existence has peaked because they got to say mean things about a movie online. In this case, it was star Brie Larson’s public comments on how she wanted more diversity in her press tour instead of only being interviewed by white guys that set the rabble off as most of them somehow misconstrued the Oscar-winning actresses’ words as “I don’t want white guys to watch or review my movie”. That is exactly what a large number of laughably angry comments are claiming over on Rotten Tomatoes, along with spittle-flecked declarations that the film is garbage despite none of these people actually having seen it for themselves yet.

Most recently, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Black Panther, and Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot infamously also saw themselves under attack on RottenTomatoes. The difference though was that most of those attacks happened after the films were released and it could still be argued that among all the ridiculous vitriol, most of it from racists/sexists who don’t want diversity in “their” movies, there were genuine criticisms from people who constructively didn’t enjoy aspects of the movie (It wasn’t helped that, as a study conducted last year, negative online sentiment to The Last Jedi was artificially fanned by a coordinated attack of Russian bots).

Rotten Tomatoes changes its "Audience Score" to combat review-bombing trolls 5

Whether via bots or not, at the time of writing, Captain Marvel’s “Want To See” score has been tanked to the lowest point for any Marvel film ever on the review aggregator due to these trolls. And Rotten Tomatoes now wants to do something about things like this occurring again. Announced last night, the review aggregator “will refresh and modernize our Audience Rating System” in order to “more accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans”.

To do this, with immediate effect, the “Want To See” score for a movie (which is supposed to be an indicator of pre-release buzz) will be removed from any movie that has not hit cinemas yet. As Rotten Tomatoes continues in its editorial, “the ‘Want to See’ percentage score is often times confused with the ‘Audience Score’ percentage number”. The latter (which is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively) is only shown once the movie or TV show is released. Now that will be the only thing visible on a movie’s scorecard, which is also getting streamlined to show less clutter.

Rotten Tomatoes changes its "Audience Score" to combat review-bombing trolls 6

Of course, that doesn’t stop the Audience Score itself from being tanked but at least it should be balanced out somewhat by legitimate reviews from people who have actually seen the movie. Rotten Tomatoes aren’t stopping there though, as they are also disabling all comments on movies prior to their release. According to the announcement, the site has seen “an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership.” Once a movie releases, all comments will be available again.

According to the LA Times, online movie ticket seller Fandango is also investigating ways to verify the veracity of user comments based on whether or not the commenter has bought tickets to the movie they’re commenting on. On top of this, they’re also looking at ways to offer users more personalized scores, however they have pointed out that “It’s not our business to control opinion. People are going to love and hate different products for different reasons. Security and relevancy are major threads to create usefulness.”

Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, none of the aforementioned changes will every fully eradicate these hate-filled trolls. As long as they have a level of anonymity, they will continue to spew out their brand of anger online, derailing and obfuscating legitimate critical debates. However, any steps taken to try and minimise the dick-ish impact of these idiots, the better.

Last Updated: February 27, 2019

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