On Monday, February 20th, 2017, the world’s most popular movie based site, IMDB, closed its message boards for good (or at least the foreseeable future). The decision to do this has caused quite some controversy among the site’s most frequent users. So what is the explanation as to why IMDB closed its message boards and chat forums? The simple answer: the trolls.
Analyzing the data and traffic of users, IMDB claims there were too many “trolls” frequenting the message boards. The act of trolling essentially comes a user’s desire not to engage in an intelligent film-related discussion with other users but to make deliberately offensive and naive posts with the intent to illicit an angry response or offend a certain person or group. This could take the form of a clickbait forum post, or a reply to someone else’s post.
The Amazon-owned Internet Movie Database claims it frequents over 250 million worldwide users per month. Analyzing the data and traffic from those users, which ranges from searching for a particular movie, actor, or director; creating a personal industry page through the site’s monthly subscription PRO account; or engaging in community forums, IMDB made the decision to remove said community forums. The announcement made earlier this month, sited that the boards no longer provided a “positive, useful experience for the vast majority” of its users. The site’s CEO Col Needham took to the boards to address more specific concerns, but as of yesterday, the IMDB message boards no longer exist.
As stated, the “small but passionate community of IMDB users” have been rather outspoken about the decision. Lara Williams from The Guardian wrote an article that interviewed several frequent users of the message boards. Regardless, the decision comes with both good, bad, and ugly repercussions.
The Good – Bye Bye Trolls
If trolls are the main reason IMDB is shutting down the boards, it isn’t an invalid one. You didn’t have to look far on any given film or actor page to find a thread topic entitled “Worst Movie Ever” or “(Actor/Director Name) Needs to Stop Making Movies”. I’ve dug a little deeper into some posts and was deeply disturbed by some of the racist, sexist, and downright offensive comments made by users to other users. These were clearly posts that no one would have the guts to say in person, but behind the protected anonymity of the keyboard screen, the IMDB forums did in fact become a haven for some of the most toxic discussions I have seen on a comment thread. The most recent example of this was the Hidden Figures message board, a forum so polluted with troll racism and sexism that you’d think neo nazis had built the page.
The Bad – Users Will Have To Look Elsewhere For Film Theories
Cult films like Fight Club, Donnie Darko, and Memento garnered much of their reputation from word of mouth. A lot of this had to do with passionate film lovers posting their interpretations or theories of certain films on IMDB’s message boards. Thus, the boards became an outlet for fans to express themselves and their love for a film that either flew under everyone’s radar or was dismissed entirely. And it was centralized within the film page itself, which means it brought traffic to IMDB as opposed to other forums like Reddit or created theory videos posted on You Tube. Without these message boards, film fans will no longer have a film centred forum to engage in these discussions.
The Ugly – The Film Community Is In Further Danger Of Falling Apart
While it is doubtful that passionate film fans will ever be left without an outlet of expression (You Tube and Reddit still exist), many users claim the message boards allowed them to find new friends, and was the main form of social expression that they had. A film page or an actor/director/writer page did in fact allow users to bond with each other over common interests. I myself knew no one who loved the movie Strange Days as much as I did. But on that film’s page, I made friends with others who had theories about the film’s meaning and engaged in deep discussions about how that film influenced many films that came after it, and how it solidified director Kathryn Bigelow into one of the top female directors of our time. IMDB claims that it still provides outlets for users to create that sense of community through its Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, You Tube, and Tumblr pages, but not everyone feels that that claim is valid. Emma Thorpe, a social media administrator, told The Guardian that the move of discussions to other social media outlets won’t work. “Comments will get lost in the noise.”
What is your opinion on IMDB’s move to shut down its message boards? Let us know in the Comments!