New Study Shows More Than Half Of Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trolls Are Bots

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You may have noticed that Star Wars has become an unusually contentious topic on the web as of late, and much of that has to do with the recent Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with the Rian Johnson-helmed flick dividing the fanbase with its unexpected reworking of the property. In the months since, the film, along with the team behind it, has received a continuing wave of backlash, with online harassment famously pushing actress Kelly Marie Tran to quit social media.

But while it’s impossible to deny that the film didn’t sit well with certain viewers, a new study suggests that more than half of the negativity it receives online may be the work of bots and trolls with ulterior motives. In a piece titled “Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation,” researcher Morten Bay argues that there’s a coordinated effort to stir up anger around Johnson’s movie, writing:

“[W]hile 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.”

In a study of the film’s online presence, Bay found that 50.9% of negative tweets were “likely politically motivated or not even human,” though this negative response only made up 21.9% of all the tweets discussing the film. Expanding further on the motivation of these tweets, Bay links this backlash to the current political climate:

“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. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

It’s strange to think that this space saga has become the subject of so much controversy, and you can imagine that Star Wars: Episode IX will spawn some arguments of its own when it comes out next next year. Until then, the drama around Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.

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