Report: HBO Boss Trolled Critics With Fake Accounts

'Rolling Stone' uncovers texts in which Casey Bloys dictates responses word for word
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2023 5:30 PM CDT
Report: HBO Boss Trolled Critics With Fake Accounts
Casey Bloys, then-president of HBO programming, participates in a panel during the HBO Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on July 26, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Before being named HBO's CEO and chairman in 2022, Casey Bloys launched a campaign aimed at trolling critics who offered unfavorable takes about HBO content as president of original programming, Rolling Stone reports in an exposé. The outlet reviewed text messages that form part of a wrongful termination lawsuit brought against HBO by a former employee and found at least six instances between June 2020 and April 2021 in which Bloys and Kathleen McCaffrey, HBO's senior vice president of drama programming, discussed using a "secret army" to respond to critical posts on Twitter, now known as X. In four cases, Bloys and McCaffrey proposed language that's "an exact match" for responses from anonymous accounts, according to the outlet.

The text messages come from documents prepared for a lawsuit brought against HBO, McCaffrey, and others by former HBO staffer Sully Temori, who claims he faced harassment and discrimination after revealing a mental health diagnosis. He also claims he was forced to do menial tasks, including creating fake online accounts used to troll critics. Texts reveal McCaffrey recruited Temori for the job while explaining that Bloys "always wants to pick a fight on Twitter" and wants "to create a dummy account that can't be traced to us to do his bidding," per Rolling Stone. In earlier messages, Bloys had asked McCaffrey about using a "mole" account to make Vulture TV critic Kathryn VanArendonk "feel bad" about reproving comments she made about an HBO series.

Using a fake account, Temori slammed New York Times TV critics James Poniewozik and Mike Hale, who'd posted unfavorable reviews of The Nevers, for "s---ing on a show about women." Bloys had dictated those exact words to McCaffrey, per Rolling Stone. Bloys also dictated responses to anonymous commenters on news articles about HBO programming, including one who criticized Bloys' leadership specifically, according to the outlet. It notes there's "growing suspicion that PR firms and even individual directors have used troll and bot accounts and other methods to combat lackluster reviews, turn the tide of conversation, drum up support for a social media campaign, or in this instance, be petty." HBO said it wouldn't comment on the exchanges but denies "each and every allegation" in Temori's suit. (More HBO stories.)

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