Rotten Tomatoes Debuts "Verified" Audience Ratings to Fight Trolls

Rotten Tomatoes - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

Moviegoers who have confirmed that they have purchased a ticket to a film will receive "verified" badges.

Critic aggregator and movie website Rotten Tomatoes is rolling out new measures for its audience review functions to combat "bad actors" and online trolls that exploit the public review system.

The feature, called verified ratings and reviews, is comprised of a separate audience score made up of reviews from moviegoers who have confirmed that they have purchased a ticket to the movie they are writing about.

Every visitor to the Rotten Tomatoes site will still be able to rate and review movies, and all reviews will be listed on the site, regardless of whether or not they are confirmed ticket purchasers. But the verified audience score will be the default display on the movie's landing page, whereas the audience score compiled from all ratings is accessible under an "All Audience" tab that must be clicked on before being displayed. 

Moreover, when written reviews are shown, those that are from verified audience members will be marked with a "verified" checkmark badge.

Starting Thursday, a user can opt in to get their rating and review "verified" if they purchased their movie ticket on Fandango, the parent of Rotten Tomatoes. If a moviegoer purchased their ticket through Fandango, they will receive a push notification after their showing ends and will then be able to review the film directly in the Fandango app. The review will then be posted on the movie's Rotten Tomatoes page.

As of Thursday, the audience score made up of verified reviews will be displayed next the movie title in the Fandango app, alongside the film's critical freshness rating.   

The new verified audience score will be applied on theatrical releases moving forward. Verified ratings and reviews will not be retroactively applied to previously released titles. 

Additionally, top exhibitors AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket-purchase authenticators later this year. While plans on how to authenticate these tickets are still being developed with the exhibitors, Rotten Tomatoes is looking at the possibility of using online ticket-order confirmation numbers or barcodes as a means of verifying the third-party tickets. 

The hope is that audience members who buy physical tickets at a theater's box office will be able to participate in the verified review system in the future. Says vp product Greg Ferris, "Ultimately, our goal is to make this as ubiquitous as possible."

"We think this was the next place to add more credibility to our scores," says Fandango chief marketing officer Lori Pantel. "One of the added values of verified is that it could dissuade what we call 'bad actors' from commenting on a film that they may not have even seen." 

Publicly sourced review systems, like Rotten Tomatoes audience score or IMDb's star ratings, have long been susceptible to online attacks from internet trolls that inundate certain films' online ratings with negative reviews.

The female-fronted Captain Marvel, for example, was deluged with negative reviews prior to the film's March 8 opening. In response, Rotten Tomatoes made a new policy that audience comments on movies will remain closed until the film opens in theaters. At the time, Rotten Tomatoes said of the new measure: "Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in nonconstructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership." 

An editorial posted on the Rotten Tomatoes homepage outlines the new verified feature and how users will be able to access it.