Did Russian bots try to sabotage ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’?

“A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”

A new study has controversially claimed that Russian bots may have been responsible for the online backlash that Star Wars: The Last Jedi faced upon release.

Despite winning widespread critical acclaim in December 2017, the sci-fi sequel proved a little more divisive among devoted Star Wars fans.

As well as directing online criticism towards the film, detractors also orchestrated a campaign that saw star Kelly Marie Tran quitting social media in the face of overwhelming harassment.

However, it’s now claimed that the negativity may have been part of an effort by Russian bots to create division in America by targeting popular culture.

According to researcher Morten Bay, 50.9% percent of negative responses received on Twitter came from non-automated accounts, while only 21.9% was from actual humans.

Bay outlines the theory in his new study, Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation.

“The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society,” Bay writes. “A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls.”

Although Bay’s theory is yet to be independently verified, it’s already gained the support of Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.

“A bit of Morten’s research came out awhile ago and made some headlines – here’s his full paper”, he wrote. “Looking forward to reading it, but what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online.”

In a four-star reviewNME said: “The Last Jedi blasts the rule book to pieces, sending the Skywalker saga in unexpected directions. Not all its risks pay off, but its biggest wins outdo anything in the previous film. For fans, there are many, many moments that will leave you cheering or weeping, possibly both at once.”

Meanwhile, the final episode of the Star Wars sequel trilogy will hit cinemas in December 2019.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams will return behind the camera once more, after replacing Colin Trevorrow.