Russian bots and politically motivated trolls were responsible for much of the online criticism thrown at Star Wars: The Last Jedi, according to a new study.
Arguably the most controversial Star Wars film yet, the latest film – which stars Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega – received a backlash from some diehard fans following its release last year, despite winning critical acclaim.
But new research by US digital media expert Morten Bay, from the University of Southern California (USC), suggests the criticism may not all have been genuine.
In his report, Mr Bay says that among those who addressed director Rian Johnson on Twitter to express dissatisfaction, "more than half are bots, trolls/sock puppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality".
A number of these appear to be from Russia, he says.
"While it is only a minority of Twitter accounts that tweet negatively about The Last Jedi, organised attempts at politicising the pop culture discourse on social media for strategic purposes are significant enough that users should be made aware of these measures, so they can act accordingly," he concludes.
Johnson retweeted a link to the research on his own Twitter account, saying it was "consistent" with his own experiences online.
He added: "And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I've had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff, that's what fandom is all about.
"This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment."
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In June, Johnson hit back at troll "manbabies" who forced actress Kelly Marie Tran to quit Instagram after months of racist and sexist abuse over her role in the film.
The Vietnamese-American star – who became the first woman of colour to play a leading part in the series – deleted all her posts on the photo-sharing social network.