Letterboxd co-founder Matthew Buchanan has issued an apology on behalf of the company after it controversially removed a fan review of “Inglourious Basterds.” The review, published by Letterboxd user SilentDawn, included a line in which the writer shared that he wanted the titular soldiers from the Quentin Tarantino WWII film to come back in real life and take care of the Nazis living in America today.
The Nazi comment prompted Letterboxd to remove the review from its platform. In a since-deleted tweet, Letterboxd attempted to explain its decision: “We don’t wish to promote any form of violent hatred on our platform, no matter which side you come down on.” The social media post caused backlash against the company as some users took to Twitter to accuse Letterboxd of defending Nazism.
The Letterboxd team again took to social media to respond to the controversy. In a follow-up tweet, Letterboxd defended itself by establishing its stance against Nazism. “We’re not Nazi sympathizers,” the company wrote. “Not a single one of us. We’re not even neutral on the issue. Nazism sucks.”
In an apology sent to IndieWire and posted publicly on Letterboxd’s website, Buchanan said the company is “genuinely sorry” for the way it handled the “Inglourious Basterds” review. The co-founder admitted the company “responded badly” in its initial Twitter comment and went on to explain in more specific detail why the review was initially taken down.
The “Inglourious Basterds” incident resulted in Letterboxd making a couple of immediate changes to its moderation and community policy. One update was adding to its community policy an explicit line rejecting content that “expressly praises, supports, promotes or represents white nationalist ideology.” Buchanan noted that Letterboxd does not use artificial intelligence tools to monitor its platform and instead relies on staff member moderators.
Read Letterboxd’s apology in its entirety below:
Yesterday, our moderators removed a member’s review of the film Inglourious Basterds. When asked why on Twitter, we responded badly.
We fucked up and we’re genuinely sorry. We’re especially sorry that our reply caused some of you to feel unsafe on Letterboxd.
How did it happen?
The tweet: We’re a small team. The same small team that built the service also looks after the servers, does the PR, washes the dishes and takes out the trash. Yesterday, we replied with stupidly chosen words to a Twitter query, without stopping to consider the wider social context, or the similarity between the tweet’s wording and an egregious and harmful statement from a political figurehead. It was wrong and we’re sorry.
The review: Our community policy has long been clear as to how we feel about content that promotes, engages in or incites hate, violence or intolerance. The underlying intent of the original review — a wish for a swift end to fascism — is a conversation we welcome. It was the use of specific language around violence that led one of our moderators to remove the review text, after it was reported to us.
Where to now?
We don’t want to dwell further on the review in question, because that would put the onus back on the reviewer in this discussion. We want to focus on the bigger questions that you have raised around how we moderate content.
Firstly: dangerous fascism and white supremacist ideology can go to hell. We remove it from our service regularly. We want to catch it all. We’ve changed our community policy as of today to reflect this, adding in an explicit line rejecting content that “expressly praises, supports, promotes or represents white nationalist ideology”.
Secondly: what we’ve heard most loudly from you over the past 24 hours is: “Why delete this review, while allowing other harassing comments towards women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people…?”
We read everything that’s reported to us, and a lot besides, and we remove or hide everything that violates our community policy. When we get it wrong, you, our community lets us know and we take a closer look. We also take the opportunity to review our internal processes, to ensure we’re doing our best.
Often we hide content, rather than removing it. Hiding means the content isn’t visible anywhere except on the member’s profile, or if you already have a link to it. We’ve realized that the content is still searchable, so we are removing moderated content from search results as well. Hiding is effective but we don’t want this stuff, period—hidden or not—so we are also broadening what we consider removable to include more of what we all find objectionable.
If you’d like more insight on how our moderation process works and what improvements we have planned around it, read on below.
We’re committed to Letterboxd being a safe, creative space for you to share your love of film.
The Letterboxd crew