After Disturbing 'Captain Marvel' Trolling, Rotten Tomatoes Makes Drastic Changes

It just got a little harder for trolls to attack "Captain Marvel" and "Star Wars."

It looks like Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel isn’t going to have to fight trolls alone.

Following a clear trolling attack on the upcoming Marvel movie, which led to a plummeting “want to see” rating and a comment section filled with sexist vitriol, Rotten Tomatoes is announcing a variety of drastic changes to its movie rating system, some of which have already been rolled out.

The movie rating aggregation site will “modernize its audience rating system through a series of product enhancements, with the first phase launching today featuring new functionality for pre-released movies,” according to a press release sent to HuffPost on Tuesday.

“Fans will no longer be able to leave comments or reviews” on a movie prior to its release, the release said. Also, the “want to see” score is being changed from a percentage to show a “raw number” of the users interested in a given movie.

The abuse on the “Captain Marvel” page was first pointed out early last week when some noticed the pre-release comments on it seemed to be largely attacking Larson. A typical comment by those who hadn’t seen the movie castigated it as an “SJW (social justice warrior) laden, white male hating worthless POS.” The reactions apparently were sparked by the actress’ recent remarks about wanting more inclusivity among those interviewing her about the film.

Star Wars: Episode IX” was also reportedly getting “review bombed” in pre-release comments on the site.

HuffPost monitored the comments on the “Captain Marvel” page and saw Rotten Tomatoes was removing some of the hateful posts. But eliminating pre-release comments will end the problem.

Rotten Tomatoes expounded on this change in a blog post, saying, “Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature for now is the best course of action.”

Once a movie is released, “audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have,” the blog explains.

Changes to the “want to see” score also seem tailored to combat efforts to tank the movie’s pre-release reception.

Following the realization that the page was being targeted by trolls, HuffPost noticed the movie’s “want to see” score, the percent of people who are interested in a movie, was also being attacked. According to our screenshots, the score went from around 5,000 user ratings, with 78 percent of them interested in seeing the movie on Feb. 19, to more than 45,000 ratings and a “want to see” percentage dropping to 28 as of Monday.

Rotten Tomatoes screenshot from Feb. 25.
Rotten Tomatoes screenshot from Feb. 25.
Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes now will show an absolute number of the total users who are interested in a movie.

The company says this is “to eliminate the confusion that sometimes occurred between the ‘want to see’ score and the ‘audience score,’ which is also represented as a percentage.”

However, besides “eliminating confusion,” changing the “want to see” score to a raw number emphasizes how many people actually are interested in seeing a film — without shining a spotlight on how many aren’t.

Here’s what the “want to see” score looks like on “Captain Marvel” now:

Rotten Tomatoes screenshot from Feb. 26.
Rotten Tomatoes screenshot from Feb. 26.
Rotten Tomatoes

In addition to those tweaks, the company is rolling out a “user interface that positions the Audience Score adjacent to the Tomatometer Score,” which doesn’t seem to really address trolling issues, but does make the ratings less cluttered and confusing overall.

Here’s how the audience score looked before:

Rotten Tomatoes screenshot before changes.
Rotten Tomatoes screenshot before changes.
Rotten Tomatoes

Here’s how it looks now:

Rotten Tomatoes screenshot after changes.
Rotten Tomatoes screenshot after changes.
Rotten Tomatoes

Of course, trolling doesn’t magically stop after a movie is released.

Perhaps the biggest trolling controversy on the site came after the release of 2017′s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The drastic difference that emerged between the critics’ score and the audience score on that page spurred rumors of bot attacks from alt-right groups, which Rotten Tomatoes previously denied was going on in a statement to HuffPost.

At the time, the company told us, “As a course of regular business, we have a team of security, network, social, database experts who monitor all of our platforms, and they haven’t seen any unusual activity.”

These latest changes don’t really address post-release trolling, but various other upcoming changes mentioned in Tuesday’s press release might. These include verified reviews from ticket purchasers and enhanced security to protect data integrity.

Rotten Tomatoes will be explaining updates on the site as they roll out and offering explanations on its blog.

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