Academy Awards changes rules around social media after this year’s Oscars controversies

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its “most significant overhaul” of rules around campaigning for Oscars, fresh after Andrea Riseborough’s controversial nomination for best actress.

The changes and clarifications come after several incidents were flagged as possibly breaking the rules around campaigning for nominations at this year’s Academy Awards. These included Riseborough’s nomination for her performance in To Leslie, after an aggressive guerrilla campaign that saw actors including Kate Winslet, Amy Adams and Gwyneth Paltrow endorse the low-budget indie film. The British actor had not been considered a contender for a nomination, with some suggesting her inclusion had come at the expense of Black actors.

Other incidents included Top Gun: Maverick producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, hosting a party at his Beverly Hills home in late February where several Oscar voters were present; the Academy’s bylaws say that after Oscar nominations are released, campaigns cannot “invite members to attend any parties, dinners, lunches, or other non-screening events that promote nominated films”.

Eventual best actress winner, Michelle Yeoh, on the final day of Oscar voting, shared screengrabs of a Vogue story that praised her performance and specifically outlined why fellow nominee Cate Blanchett should not win. References to competitors on social media by nominees or films’ publicity teams was not allowed; Yeoh later deleted the post.

Riseborough retained her nomination but, just before this year’s Oscars ceremony, the Academy president, Janet Yang, said the controversy was “a wake-up call” that meant the organisation would review campaign regulations to “make sure they reflect our changing environment; meaning a lot more social media”.

After an investigation into the campaign around Riseborough’s nomination, the Academy CEO, Bill Kramer, said that the organisation had “determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern.”

The new changes include a clarification of rules around private events and gatherings where Academy members are present: now the Academy will allow individuals to hold events that are not formal “for your consideration” events, but studios and companies are prohibited from funding, organising or endorsing them.

Rules around social media remain, but the Academy’s new regulations state that members cannot use social media to “encourage or discourage members to vote for any motion picture, performance, or achievement”.

Voters will no longer be able to speak to the media about their choices anonymously, with the new regulations stating: “You may not discuss your voting preferences and other members’ voting preferences in a public forum. This includes comparing or ranking motion pictures, performances, or achievements in relation to voting. This also includes speaking with press anonymously.”

Studios can now only put on four “hosted” screenings – usually those hosted by a celebrity – in the pre-nomination period, but the new rules allow for an unlimited number of Q&As and panel discussions throughout the voting season, so long as there’s no “host” attached to the event.

The Academy’s Board of Governors are completely barred from hosting private events, gatherings, screenings or moderating an event unless they have direct involvement with a film.

“The Academy has revised these promotional regulations for the 96th Oscars to bring clarity, fairness, and transparency to how motion picture companies and individuals directly associated with awards-eligible motion pictures may promote such motion pictures,” the Academy announced in a statement on Tuesday.

The Guardian