A WarnerMedia report reveals that bots and other inauthentic users bolstered the fan-led campaign for director Zack Snyder’s Justice League do-over
Really long article that references a report commissioned by WarnerMedia.
On June 26, 2020, Snyder had had enough. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, Snyder confronted an executive in the studio’s postproduction department and issued a threat: “Geoff and Jon are dragging their feet on taking their names off my cut. Now, I will destroy them on social media.”
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 forsnydercut.com 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 reports had taken on a mythic status within Warner Bros. Some doubted they even existed. But a small group at the parent company did have access to them. The main report, dated April 2021 and titled “SnyderCut Social Media Presence,” offers a chilling glimpse inside the powerful movement.
“After researching online conversations about the Snyder Cut of the Justice League‘s release, specifically the hashtags ‘ReleaseTheSnyderCut’ and ‘RestoreTheSnyderVerse’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, [the analysts] detected an increase in negative activity created by both real and fake authors,” the report concluded. “One identified community was made up of real and fake authors that spread negative content about WarnerMedia for not restoring the ‘SnyderVerse.’ Additionally, three main leaders were identified within the authors scanned on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — one leader on each platform. These leaders received the highest amount of engagement and have many followers, which gives them the ability to influence public opinion.” Furthermore, the report stated, many authors were spreading “harmful content” about then-Warner Bros. chairman Ann Sarnoff (who had called the fan trolling “reprehensible” in an interview with Variety), “with the majority of authors calling her a liar for the claim that there is no Snyder Cut of the movie and called for Warner Media to fire her. These authors also started using the hashtag ‘BoycottWarnerBros.’” Another internal report found an active sub-community that was attacking Johns.
The article citing the reports from WB goes into detail never released about how Snyder was working on cuts while Whedon was doing stuff at the same time.
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.
The ad agency allegation:
But a new force was rising: the SnyderVerse army. Forsnydercut.com, one of the loudest and most influential voices in online Snyder fandom, made its debut in late December 2017, and, according to both the site and the main report commissioned by WarnerMedia, played an influential role in making the Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut go viral.
It’s unclear who, precisely, is behind the site. Four participants are listed there as its developers, including a self-identified fan and site founder who purports to be from China named Fiona Zheng. The site was originally registered using a privacy service in December 2017, but web registration records show that, during a brief lapse in the privacy protection from mid March to mid-October 2021, a digital marketing consultant named Xavier Lannes was listed as the registrant of forsnydercut.com. The social media analytics firm Alethea tells Rolling Stone that it is highly unlikely that ownership changed hands before or after that period.
A LinkedIn account for Lannes, who is not mentioned on forsnydercut.com, identifies him as the CEO of a Los Angeles-based digital ad firm called MyAdGency. The website MyAdGency.com is no longer active, but an archived version of the site touted such services as bringing “cheap, instant Avatar traffic to your website.” The agency boasted: “We use the latest technology concentrated in the palm of your customer’s hands to grow your business beyond your wildest dreams!” Snyder denies knowing or ever hiring Lannes; Lannes did not respond to a request for comment. Zheng, meanwhile, despite prolific tweeting about Snyder from 2016 up until the day of the Snyder Cut’s release in 2021, has posted just twice since then. A query to Zheng went unanswered.
WB was planning to use Martian Manhunter elsewhere:
That same month, a battle was also brewing between Snyder and DC Films president Walter Hamada over a Snyder Cut arc involving the character Martian Manhunter. Sources say the character never appeared in the script, leaving the studio blindsided. Hamada demanded the footage not be used; DC had other plans for Martian Manhunter and didn’t want him wasted in two random scenes.
It ended up costing WB $100M to finish and market:
There’s ALOT more in the article, again it’s long, but naturally Rolling Stone is being torched over it right now.In a move that dismayed studio insiders, Kilar overruled Sarnoff and allowed Martian Manhunter to appear in the Snyder Cut. The director was also given the $13 million he’d been demanding in production costs. That brought the studio’s total expenditure on the film to $73 million, before marketing costs put it over the $100 million mark. “That’s $73 million while people were losing their jobs at the studio for a director’s cut of a film that already lost hundreds of millions,” notes an insider. (Snyder says “The studio never would have released my version of Justice League unless it made financial/business sense for them.”)