Like countless movie fans my Mecca is the Internet Movie Database (or IMDB as it’s commonly known) Pretty much any fact that I want to know about pretty much any movie in history ranging from what is La La Lands budget? To, did they really make a film with the tagline Unwittingly He Trained a Dolphin to Kill the President of the United States? (They did, it’s called The Day of the Dolphin and it was somehow nominated for 2 Oscars.)
And like many others, I’ve made a habit of checking the boards after viewing a film, reading up on the fan theories and narrative deconstructions or just checking to see if other people have similar opinions or why their opinions are different from mine and therefore completely wrong and irrelevant.
But as of the 20th of February I won’t be able to do that any more. Because from that date IMDB will be shutting down it;s message boards, claiming that it had “concluded that IMDb’s message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide”, and that the decision was “based on data and traffic”.
Essentially, they belive that the discussion has moved from the notice boards to social media. And some outlets claim that IMDb’s assertion that the site no longer provides a “positive, useful experience” refers to those trolling the boards. US entertainment website the Wrap highlighted the recent example of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro being hit with a slew of negative and one-star reviews before its official release date as a tipping point. And you don’t have to wade far into the films’ boards to find them riddled with racist, ignorant and posturingly obtuse comments.
“IMDb say that the boards have been overtaken by trolls, but they could easily make it harder for people to troll, by hindering them creating multiple accounts.” User Dan L began an online petition to save the boards, currently at just under 10,000 signatures. He suspects the invocation of trolls is little more than a smokescreen. He believes the real reason is a combination of much lower user numbers than IMDb is publicising, and the way in which the boards and ratings are being exploited.
“They make bold claims such as 250 million monthly users worldwide. If IMDb really had 250 million users how come the movie with the most ratings, Shawshank Redemption, only has 1.7m votes? I don’t see how they can have 3.3% of the world’s population regularly using the site.”
And sadly, if shutting down the boards was an attempt to remove trolls then it’s failed miserably. Researching Patriots Day, I found that the user reviews are still up, and for every review of Patriots Day that was a genuine review of the film, I found three one-star reviews about how the bombings were an inside job. The swamp hasn’t drained, it’s just migrated.
I’m not going to pretend that IMDB’s message boards were completely perfect, there were threads that were sexist, racist and demeaning, and maybe they were getting quieter (which I don’t believe) but they were also a community of people who loved a particular film or actor as much as you did,or people who could explain why something that I was bumping my head on wasn’t a plot hole but instead just poorly explained.
But I’m going to miss them, troll infested and probably horrifically expensive to run as they are, they were a valuable resource and good source of knowledge.
But what do you guys think?