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SYFY WIRE Rotten tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes may make users prove they've seen movies before reviewing

By Jacob Oller
Brie Larson Captain Marvel

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has recently been altering its outreach, layout, and, offerings in the wake of several scandals where online mobs have overwhelmed the site with misinformation.

There have been alt-right bots sent to tank The Last Jedi’s audience score and perturbed men leaving bad reviews of Captain Marvel before the film even came out in wide release — they’ve even been hitting Star Wars: Episode IX and that movie doesn’t have a real title yet. Ghostbusters, Black Panther — seemingly any genre film that attracts negative, politically-driven attention has been the victim of this weird defamation.

In an effort to make necessary changes, the site recently removed the “Want to See” score, which is where much of this “review bombing” has taken place. They've also disabled the comment section until the film’s premiere. But now Rotten Tomatoes is moving to more concrete measures, aimed at preserving its reputation as a review aggregator and not just an echo chamber amplifier.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the site is considering making non-critic users verify that they’ve actually seen the film before posting an audience review. Basically the bare minimum for leaving a review, no?

This is one of many measures being considered for implementation, with no mock-ups yet of what this might involve (A plot quiz? A ticket barcode?), but its very consideration proves the site’s recognition of the problem. The catalyst for the change, Captain Marvel, hasn’t seemingly seen any financial impact from the attempted fraud, but it’s certainly a hassle for a company that would like to remain a go-to for those seeking real opinions from people who have really seen the movie.

"We are disappointed that there was a group of people who were obviously very passionate and who had a negative opinion of the movie, whether they saw it or not," said Dana Benson, Communications VP for Fandango, which owns Rotten Tomatoes.

A site that collects reviews lives and dies by their credibility. Huge and disingenuous differences between audience and critic scores not only undermine the purpose of Rotten Tomatoes, but make the site seem less effective. Presumably those that designed the review process for the site never thought people would flood it with thousands of fake reviews, but now that the threat has been thoroughly documented, updates are in order — with the verification process likely being just the first to come.