HBO Chief Admits To Using Fake Social Media “Secret Army” to Troll Critics

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HBO CEO and Chairman Casey Bloys has admitted that he ordered staff to create a “secret army” of fake social media accounts, often using the language of “woke” culture, to harass and troll TV critics who gave shows negative reviews.

Deleted cartoons fading over the hbo max logo: ben 10, flapjack, the flintstones, foster's home for imaginary friends, infinity train
Credit: ITM/HBO/Cartoon Network

A new bombshell report from Rolling Stone accused Casey Bloys, HBO senior vice president of drama Kathleen McCaffrey, and other executives of pressuring staff members to create fake Twitter and other social media accounts in order to dismiss, disparage, and otherwise try to hit back at critics over poor reviews.

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The report cited evidence from a lawsuit filed by former HBO staffer Sully Temori, who is suing HBO, McCaffrey, HBO’s executive vice president and head of drama Francesca Orsi, and Abel Tesfaye, the singer formerly known as the Weeknd, who recently produced and starred in the poorly received drama The Idol.

A still from The Idol featuring Abel Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp sitting together
Credit: Warner Bros

HBO is currently fighting the lawsuit, which claims harassment, retaliation, and discrimination, and has issued a statement saying it “intends to vigorously defend against Mr. Temori’s allegations. We look forward to a full and fair resolution of this dispute. In the meantime, we wish Mr. Temori, a former HBO employee, well in his future endeavors.”

The Rolling Stone report may make that more difficult, as CEO Casey Bloys apologized to TV critics at a recent HBO event (per BBC), admitting to those specific allegations by Temori. Bloys said he was “working from home and doing an unhealthy amount of scrolling through Twitter, and I come up with a very, very dumb idea to vent my frustration.”

Bloys continued to say there were six Tweets over an 18-month period, and he “apologize[s] to the people who were mentioned in the leaked texts.”

According to the lawsuit, in June 2020, McCaffrey approached Temori, saying Bloys was “obsessed with Twitter,” “always wants to pick a fight on Twitter,” and “He always texts me asking me to find friends to reply … is there a way to create a dummy account that can’t be traced to us to do his bidding.”

Among others, TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Kathryn VanArendonk were specifically targeted. At one point, McCaffrey allegedly contacted Temori, asking, “Can our secret operative please tweet at Alan’s review: ‘Alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.’ And then we have to delete this chain right? Omg I just got scared lol.”

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Later, a Twitter account was created in the name of “Kelly Shepherd” that struck back against critics, including Sepinwall and Alan Sternbergh, using the same sentiments and wording that Temori was asked to.

Text of Tweet from the fake account"Kelly Shepherd" replying to Alan Sepinwall
Credit: Twitter
Text from the Twitter account of "Kelly Shepherd" replying to Adam Sternbergh
Credit: Twitter

While it is (presumably) not illegal to create dummy social media accounts and respond to critics with them, it certainly is not a great look for HBO, Casey Bloys, or their parent company Warner Bros Discovery. In a time in which WB CEO David Zaslav is getting a whole lot of negative press, they probably don’t need this.

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