Marvel’s Black Panther attracted huge crowds over President’s Day weekend, resulting in a record-setting box-office haul. But the film also brought out the worst in a number of Twitter trolls, some of whom tried to spread fake stories of assaults at the hands of the superhero movie’s fans.
While Black Panther rode a huge wave of critical acclaim and fan excitement to the biggest opening weekend ever for the month of February (and the fifth-largest of all-time), raking in more than $426 million worldwide, a small number of Internet trolls still did what they could to dampen the good vibes surrounding the trailblazing film, which features Marvel’s first African-American director (Ryan Coogler) and a cast led by black actors such as Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o. Starting last week, in the first few days of Black Panther‘s highly-anticipated theatrical release, some Twitter accounts started trying to spread false accounts of attacks at screenings of the movie.
These clearly fake claims were quickly called out by other Twitter users, many of whom were able to use reverse image searches to show that the online trolls were using stock photos and other misleading images as “proof” of alleged attacks against white patrons perpetrated by black moviegoers. Twitter has suspended several of the accounts responsible for posting and spreading the fake images and stories.
Even Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn chimed in to support a fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe film, with a tweet advising social media users to ignore trolls and enjoy the film.
The trolls’ posts also came on the heels of a reported campaign aimed at sabotaging Black Panther‘s ratings on movie sites like IMDB.com, along with the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Those attempts failed, as Black Panther boasts largely favorable scores on those sites. Rotten Tomatoes said it would closely monitor reviews and posts for the movie, while Facebook reportedly removed a group that claimed to be planning an assault on Black Panther’s Rotten Tomatoes score after similarly targeting the recent Walt Disney movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
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Much like trolls’ attempts to affect Black Panther‘s status as a critical darling, the Twitter posts describing fake attacks at movie screenings also seemed to be part of a racist campaign meant to scare people away from theaters in order to hurt the film’s overall box-office gross (again, a major fail). However, the quick reactions on Twitter from people easily discrediting those malicious attempts at going viral and sowing discord also seemed to reveal an evolution in social media users’ ability to push back against Internet trolls. In this case, the initial fake posts were not only immediately met with responses debunking the false assault claims, but many Twitter users also fought back by relentlessly mocking the trolls themselves.
Twitter users posted countless parodies of the false attack stories, including obviously faked images and stories that soon escalated into absurdity.
Clearly, Twitter users who are getting sick of Internet trolls have decided the best response is instant vetting followed by a heavy dose of satire.