Report: The Snyder Cut was pressured into being by an army of online trolls

Rolling Stone reports that WarnerMedia recently commissioned a new infosec report on the various fiascos surrounding the Justice League film, which found — among other things — that the campaign to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut was disproportionately troll-heavy:

According to two reports commissioned by WarnerMedia and recently obtained by Rolling Stone, at least 13 percent of the accounts that took part in the conversation about the Snyder Cut were deemed fake, well above the three to five percent that cyber experts say they typically see on any trending topic. (In public filings, Twitter has estimated that the percentage of daily active accounts on its platform that are "false or spam" is less than five percent.) So while Snyder had scores of authentic, flesh-and-blood fans, those real stans were amplified by a disproportionate number of bogus accounts.    

Two firms contacted by Rolling Stone that track the authenticity of social media campaigns, Q5id and Graphika, also spotted inauthentic activity coming from the SnyderVerse community. And yet another firm, Alethea Group, found that the domain — which claims to have made the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag go viral in May of 2018, and became the landing hub for efforts to bring Snyder back to the helm of the DC universe — was, at least at one point, registered to a person who also ran a now-defunct ad agency which promoted its ability to bring "cheap, instant Avatar traffic to your website."

The article establishes a new narrative of all of the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the film, from Joss Whedon's coup to the death of Snyder's daughter to actor Ray Fisher's social media campaign against Whedon (and, to a lesser degree, producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg). The insinuation in the article — which the writer is very careful not to state explicitly but leave heavily, heavily implied — is that Snyder himself financed the trollish marketing campaign that put him back in control of rebooting his failed magnum opus. This may not be particularly surprising; the writer herself notes that even Vox observed that the Snyderverse fandom "has far more in common with abusive right-wing campaigns like Gamergate than with most of mainstream geek culture." But what is interesting is the article's revelations about the lengths to which Snyder went in order to finish the movie that he actually wanted to finish, like this:

What the studio didn't know at the time was that Snyder had already shot footage in his backyard at the height of the pandemic. Sources say the rogue shoot flouted Covid protocols and union guidelines. (Snyder acknowledges two shoots were done in his backyard during the pandemic, insisting that both adhered to Covid protocols, and noting that one shoot was authorized by Warner Bros.) 

And (ohhhhhh boy) this:

[Following the theatrical release of Joss Whedon's cut of Justice League in 2017] The studio was looking to take the universe in a different direction and was making plans to replace Affleck and Cavill. 

Around this time, sources say, Snyder sent one of his editors to the studio to retrieve hard drives that contained materials for Justice League. Snyder was asked to return them, considering they were studio property. He balked. (Snyder says he was contractually entitled to files connected with the film, that the materials were for "my personal use" and that he was not asked to return them at that time.) Security was notified, sources say, but no action was taken. No one expected Snyder to begin tinkering with an alternate cut of the film.


Snyder finally returned the Justice League materials he'd confiscated following a settlement reached with the studio in August 2021. 

The article also points out that Snyder was able to coax an additional $100 million dollars out of WarnerMedia … even as the start of the pandemic lead to numerous layoffs. (The original release cost $300 million, and only brought in $658 million.)

In the interest of full disclosure, there are a lot of people on Twitter pointing out that the article's writer, Tatiana Siegel, supposedly has a reputation of having it out for Snyder, while cheering Joss Whedon on:

I don't know how many legitimate criticisms there actually are in there, or if it's just a similar troll army defending their god, or what. But I thought I'd at least include it here, for the sake of a full perspective.

As Forbes points out, WarnerMedia's report may not be as damning as they want it to sound either:

The main takeaway from the piece is that two reports commissioned by WB said that around 13% of #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement accounts were bots. While that's more than double the Twitter average of 5% (though if you ask Elon Musk, it's more than that), that still does not…sound like all that much in context here. If 87% of the Snyder folks were real, that's pretty significant, and I don't think that warrants the takeaway that WB was duped into greenlighting the Snyder Cut with an inauthentically large fanbase massively inflated by bots. That's really not what the data is showing here.

Paul Tassi at Forbes also fairly points out that Snyder probably had a legitimate reason to feel embittered towards Warner for messing with his precious movie. And also that he did successfully coax that extra $100 million out of them … which is their loss, not his. Warner has just as strong of a motive to save face here.

Exclusive: Fake Accounts Fueled the 'Snyder Cut' Online Army [Tatiana Siegel / Rolling Stone]

Warner Bros' Claims About A Bot-Infested Snyder Cut Movement Don't Really Add Up [Paul Tassi / Forbes]

Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)