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Rotten Tomatoes is changing audience review capabilities to tackle review bombing

Introducing verified reviews and scores

Image: Marvel Studios

Rotten Tomatoes is introducing verified ratings and reviews to its audience score system in an effort to prevent “review bombing.”

The site now displays an overall audience score based on ratings from “users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie,” according to an update on Rotten Tomatoes’ blog. The update will also allow Rotten Tomatoes’ team to tag “written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets.” Users who want to submit verified ticket purchases can do so only via Fandango right now. Other theater chains, including AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark, have also signed up to participate. The Verge has reached out for more details.

Rotten Tomatoes’ editors specifically wrote that putting “significant roadblocks in front of bad actors who would seek to manipulate the audience score” is a big reason for instituting the changes. The company has dealt with trolls using “review bomb” tactics to purposely target certain movies — thousands of people flocked to Rotten Tomatoes to negatively review films like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther because of the directors’ implicit or explicit critique of subjects like racism and sexism.

Rotten Tomatoes

Though a Rotten Tomatoes spokesperson previously told The Verge that review bombs don’t necessarily affect a movie’s performance at the box office, the site has taken certain precautions in recent months to prevent trolls from getting the upper hand. The site’s team stopped letting users leave comments before Captain Marvel opened in theaters. Part of the goal with new product changes is to be more transparent with Rotten Tomatoes visitors about how the audience score came to be, and reflect an honest collective voice.

“In the face of increased skepticism about online user ratings and reviews, and greater demand for transparency about how user scores are generated, we’re offering something simple: ratings and reviews from people we can confirm have purchased a ticket to the movie they’re rating, which we think is a strong indictor someone has seen the movie,” the blog post reads.

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the only outlet that’s been forced to take on a gang of bad actors in recent years. Gaming platforms like Steam have implemented product changes to make users more aware of where scores originate, in an effort to be more transparent. Product changes on platforms like YouTube have been battling trolls trying to abuse the system. Brie Larson was a contentious topic on YouTube prior to Captain Marvel’s release, and trolls used YouTube to spread a hateful message about boycotting the movie over comments the actress made about seeking more diversity in the pool of press interviewing her. YouTube changed “Brie Larson” as a search term to a news topic, which allowed its algorithm to prioritize videos from authoritative sources.

At the time, a YouTube spokesperson declined to comment on when a certain topic — like Brie Larson vs. Captain Marvel — becomes “news” and gets the algorithm redirecting treatment. But The Verge confirmed it’s part of YouTube’s ongoing effort to help viewers looking for news on a topic discover authoritative sources first and foremost.

Rotten Tomatoes’ new changes are going into effect now, and will roll out on all its new movie pages.