Film Twitter Loves To Spread Fake News

·5 min read

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The moment a buzzy actor is cast in a new project, Film Twitter slips into a routine: A big but unverified account tweets the news with two side-by-side photos, and the masses respond with quote tweets.

And like in all places on the internet that start with good intentions, misinformation spreads easily.

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Film Twitter is of course simply a community of movie lovers on the microblogging platform. Usually the viral posts come from unverified film news accounts such as @FilmUpdates (369,000 followers) or @DiscussingFilm (635,000 followers). The tweets are straightforward — typically an announcement citing a trade publication like Variety or Deadline, although not always with a link — and extremely fast. They always include photos. Industry insiders and celebrities frequently share tweets from these accounts, so the brand names are familiar and trusted.

“More than anyone in the industry right now, they understand what people want to see/hear, and adapt the format to get people to pay attention,” said 25-year-old Ray, who frequently retweets and quote-tweets @FilmUpdates from his account, @guysitsray. Ray, who asked for his last name not to be published to protect his privacy, said the film news account’s brevity is a “breath of fresh air.”

But the simplicity is also what makes @FilmUpdates and @DiscussingFilm so easy to parody. Any user can change their profile photo and display name for a moment to replicate these accounts and post outrageous film news misinformation that triggers thousands of hot takes — and they do.

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“I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation tricked by Jeremy Strong Stuart Little,” @sonnerly tweeted after a parody account tricked people into thinking the Succession actor was going to star in a live-action adaptation of the movie about a talking mouse. @FilmUpdates issued a statement to debunk it.

“We can’t believe we have to post this but no, Jeremy Strong is NOT playing Stuart Little (as far as we know…),” it tweeted.

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Other viral hoaxes mimicking the common tweet format include a Twilight reunion and Timothée Chalamet as Jon Arbuckle.

But Film Twitter has been tricked by more than fake casting news. Most recently, a parody account went viral for announcing that Trisha Paytas’s baby was born three minutes after Queen Elizabeth II died (which Paytas herself debunked).

Another went viral in March for claiming Meryl Streep forgot to attend the Oscars.

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And the people behind them are having a very fun time. Dan, a recent college graduate who asked that we not publish his last name for privacy reasons, runs the @DisbussingFilm parody account. He got a rise out of Film Twitter with joke tweets using the serious news update format about Henry Cavill being cast as “Zack Panther” and Nathan Fielder being cast as “Nathan Dune” in Dune 2.

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“My account is 90% trying to be funny, 10% trying to trick people,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I want everyone to be in on the joke with me.”

But Jacob Fisher, the 21-year-old who created the @DiscussingFilm account that Dan parodies, isn’t laughing. He told BuzzFeed News that dealing with parody accounts is one of the most difficult issues his team faces. The @DiscussingFilm account has been around since 2016, and the team has since launched a website that curates entertainment news and publishes reviews.

Fisher has tweeted that it’s “insane” the @DiscussingFilm account isn’t verified, because parody accounts subject it to “potential abuse” when they share misinformation. He told BuzzFeed News that publicists have been fooled by fake tweets and reached out to his team to delete them, and that Twitter has denied all requests for verification.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about @DiscussingFilm’s verification status, but the company’s guidelines require news organizations to provide extensive proof of their notability and authenticity to be verified.

The @FilmUpdates team did not respond to a request for comment.

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Trey Taylor, a former film editor at Dazed Magazine, told BuzzFeed News that @FilmUpdates and @DiscussingFilm have done a “fantastic job” growing their audiences using the same strategy popularized by @PopCrave — another easily parodied Twitter account that shares music news updates.

“Sometimes these accounts can create narratives that can be damaging to actors or ... an entire press campaign,” he said, citing Film Twitter’s obsession with a rumor that Harry Styles spat on fellow Don’t Worry Darling cast member Chris Pine. “It can quickly devolve into misinformation or irresponsibility when something goes viral for the wrong reasons.”

Even when misinformation that people fall for is funny, it’s still a symptom of a serious problem social media platforms are struggling to deal with — people have a hard time telling the difference between what’s real and what isn’t.

"This a massive issue for Twitter in general as malicious misinformation regarding a film or TV show spread on social media could cause dire consequences,” Fisher said.

But the residents of Film Twitter seem to be picking up on the community’s tendency to fall for fake news. Users regularly respond to real posts saying they double-checked to make sure they didn’t come from a parody account, and the Stuart Little mishap has been immortalized as a meme.

As long as Film Twitter’s most popular sources remain unverified, members will need to do a quick Google search before firing off their hot takes about Chris Pratt playing Garfield (a real casting we hate as much as Mondays).

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