Sony May Have Planted a Positive Ghostbusters Review on YouTube via Astroturfing

Today the review embargo is lifting for the disastrous Ghostbusters remake as the movie releases in the UK tomorrow (July 11th), and reviews will need to be available prior to that. If the UK release was later, closer to the US release, we likely wouldn’t be seeing any reviews for the movie just yet.

The actual embargo lifts at 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern), but some have already posted their reviews such as this savaging from the Village Voice. Yesterday one YouTube reviewer broke the embargo to warn everyone how bad the movie is, but now Sony may have returned to the “David Manning” school of film reviewing…although updated for the YouTube generation.

For those who don’t remember, David Manning was a fake critic Sony invented to put positive review quotes on movies that weren’t really being well reviewed, such as Rob Schneider’s comedy The Animal that he called “Another Winner!”. Sony was caught doing this, sued, and actually settled out of court and gave anyone who saw a David Manning movie a $5 refund.

Fast forward to the 2016 Ghostbusters, and it looks like Sony possibly produced a positive Ghostbusters review in the light of the movie being trashed by real critics. It was posted to the “Island Arcade” YouTube channel, as well as uploaded to multiple other channels, just a few hours after the first real review went viral on the internet.

A user on the Midnight’s Edge Facebook group did some digging and they discovered this about the review and reviewer:

  • The guy has never reviewed a movie before on the channel, and never mentioned Ghostbusters before this.
  • The first video on the channel was posted 10 months ago. Ghostbusters began production on June 18, 2015. That means this channel was created right after the movie began production.
  • The channel has averaged less than 1,000 views on any previous video.
  • The channel (as if this writing) had only 348 subs, yet was invited to an official Sony screening of Ghostbusters.

They point out that it’s highly suspicious that a small and unknown YouTube channel can produce such well produced opinion just hours after a very negative review went viral and right before the official UK release of the movie. Even more suspicious? They found the LinkedIn profile of the reviewer and he describes himself as this:

“I’m an Integrated marketing professional with a strong background in public relations, convention management, and social media. I work with nonprofits to identify emerging media trends to create targeted integrated marketing campaigns for sci-fi and fantasy culture. In other words, if there were two sides to the marketing force, I would forever choose the path of the Jedi. Also, I own a Tardis.”

And here he is with the director of Ghostbusters taken from his Twitter:

Paul Feig also “liked” this Tweet from Island Arcade right before the screening:

A marketing person with a background in PR and social media made a glowing review for a Ghostbusters movie that most real critics are not really liking? That’s pretty much the definition of a shill and astroturfing. His “defense” is that he got into the screening from a sign-up form for YouTubers that YouTube Space posted. Although he can’t provide any evidence of this form as it’s been taken down, and other YouTubers (some with 10x the subs as him) never heard about it.

I guess Sony Pictures learned nothing from their David Manning fiasco a decade ago. The only question is, will the rest of the media call them out on this?

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