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Bots Probably Helped Get Chuck Wendig Fired, Because Twitter Is a Cesspool

The graphs speak for themselves.

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Last week, the news broke that Star Wars author Chuck Wendig had been fired from the Marvel title he was working on due to the politics and vulgarity swirling around his Twitter. The Internet, for the most part, came to Wendig’s defense, because given that his politics and cursing had been part of his brand for years prior to his firing, it really seemed like he was being fired simply for speaking out against the right in an aggressive manner and not holding for shit from trolls.

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Data gathered by Bethany Lacina shows that a large number of the Twitter users engaging with Wendig and tweeting about him were not actual people, but instead were bots and puppet accounts, which we can see represented on the graph.

The man mentioned in the tweet, Ethan Van Sciver, is a member of Comicsgate—which, if you remember Gamergate, is pretty much exactly what you think it is—so you can probably guess what his video contained.

This means that Marvel, when looking at the responses to Wendig’s tweets, were actually reacting, in part, to a not-insignificant amount of bots who were tweeting at and about him. So what does this all mean?

It means that the response to Wendig is not 100% generated by real fans, but in part generated by bots who were trying to target Wendig for harassment. The reaction his tweets received between the time that he tweeted his first anti-GOP thread (which has since been deleted) and the reaction to his firing generated a large response from bots, which shows that the outrage at his tweets wasn’t necessarily entirely in good faith.

And what else? Well, that Twitter is terrible, first of all. Secondly, it means that those who check social media for reactions to creators’ tweets and other elements of media need to be aware of the presence of bots and what they’re spewing. Wendig did not deserve to be fired for his online persona, which Marvel has known about for years—at least as long as they have employed him.

Bots are a tool for people to generate more grossness on Twitter, and they should not be used as a measure of actual public response, especially since they are a tool of Comicsgate and other hate groups.

It’s unlikely that Marvel will walk back their decision to fire Wendig, but they made a bad choice based on shaky data. There’s no easy solution to the bot problem except to be aware that it’s happening and to avoid interaction with bots as much as possible. Bots, disingenuousness, and outright false propaganda are sucking social media dry, and at some point, there has to be a better way to combat them than to just avoid them.

(via Twitter, image: Twitter, Universal pictures)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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