What is Review Bombing and Who Does it Impact?

Have you ever been confused after reading a review and realized how much it contradicted your expectation? If yes, you are not alone.

In the early 2000s, reviews were the source that gave readers a perspective on how good or bad a particular movie, series, book, or service was. Readers could pick up a local newspaper or a magazine and read up on the critic’s views on a new release before they went on to invest their time, money, and effort into it.

A lot has changed with the rise of technology which includes the information ecosystem shifting to digital, where everything can now be accessed with the click of a button. But with out-and-out digitalization, people’s perspectives were changing too. With access to all information and the freedom to express their views anonymously, they started realizing the power of digital domination.

However, not everything that came out of this newly found power was good.

Online toxicity was on the rise. In fact, in late 2019, it led to the formation of call-out culture, popularly known as cancel culture.

Naturally, things took a drastic turn with both cancel culture and online toxicity. Neutral and trustworthy online reviews were a thing of the past, making us ponder what went wrong over time. Although online trolls have existed since the beginning of the internet era (mainly lurking in the comment sections of Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter) they are now entering all fields, including entertainment and services.  This further led to the arrival of another movement called ‘Review Bombing’.

Review bombing and how it all started

Review Bombing is a pop culture internet fad that started in the early 2000s within the gaming community. Netizens would swarm the internet with negative reviews out of personal vengeance either before or post-release of a project. Their key motive was to create a false narrative about the project to prevent consumers from consuming the content. 

Pros and cons of review bombing:

This new pop culture movement spared no one. Popular media conglomerates such as Marvel Studios (Disney), Warner Bros. Pictures, and Amazon Prime suffered majorly due to the backlash by fans on recent projects.

For example, newly launched series such as She-Hulk (2022) and Rings of Power (2022) received negative reviews and low ratings even before their releases. Most of these reviews were misogynistic, racist and sexist. Before She-Hulk’s release, fans shared their discontentment on Twitter regarding a female version of Hulk even though the character was created in 1983. Many viewers wrote off the bad CGI and storyline as well. With regards to ‘Rings of Power’, the comments were racist because of the diverse cast.

And surprisingly, after the releases, both She-Hulk and ‘Rings of Power’ garnered high critic ratings of 87% and 84% on the review aggregating site, Rotten Tomato. Also, both shared the same audience score of 39%, thus indicating that She-Hulk and Rings Of Power were victims of review bombing.

What's the impact of review bombing today?

Although review bombing gives netizens a platform to express their views, not all are utilising it for the right reasons. Netizens may get what they desire, but most businesses face the brunt in the form of creative and monetary losses.

Pertaining to this, many platforms and businesses are now taking steps to avoid damage to their brand image. For example, the popular review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes disabled the ‘Want to See’ feature and comment section to prevent unnecessary trolling. The site further explained its motive through an editorial saying:

Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature, for now, is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.”

Taking a Toll On Businesses

Movies are not the only ones that are affected by negative fans. Everything from the entertainment business to the hospitality services has come under the review bombing radar.

Hence why many groups or brand’s resort to smart tools online for damage control. Smart tools such as online reputation management neutralize the effects of review bombing to maintain a positive look on all platforms.

But will this bombing phenomenon fade out any time soon? Only time will tell. But it can be countered with smart tools and strategies curated to neutralize online negativity.