Tweets trolling Amber Heard and her supporters during and after her highly-publicized defamation trial against Johnny Depp resulted in “one of the worst cases of cyberbullying and cyberstalking by a group of Twitter accounts” according to a report released Monday from Bot Sentinel, an firm that studies disinformation campaigns and online harassment on social media.
The nonpartisan group Bot Sentinel studied over 14,000 tweets using the hashtags #AmberHeardIsAnAbuser, #AmberHeardLsAnAbuser, #AmberHeardIsALiar and #AmberHeardLsALiar—and noted the “intentional misspelling demonstrates a calculated effort to manipulate hashtag trends” and was done to “to deceive Twitter’s algorithms.”
There were 627 accounts dedicated to “exclusively” tweeting about Heard and her female supporters.
Over 24% of the accounts tweeting and using negative hashtags about Heard were created in the last seven months; “the average for other topics is 8.6%,” Bot Sentinel reported.
Heard and women who tweeted their support of her were “attacked relentlessly,” often with “vulgar and threatening language;” Bot Sentinel detailed an instance in which someone created a fake account using photos of a Heard supporter’s deceased child to attack them, and also harassed this person’s family members.
Trolls that attacked Heard and her supporters recently turned their negative attention to Evan Rachel Wood, who has accused Marilyn Manson of sexual abuse, and Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide of Mark Meadows who recently testified during a public January 6 hearing, Bot Sentinel said.
Bot Sentinel included a disclaimer in its report that Heard’s team contacted the group in 2020 to study social media activity about her, which was separate from their study of the Heard Depp case, which it began in June.
“What we observed was one of the worst cases of cyberbullying and cyberstalking by a group of Twitter accounts that we’ve ever seen,” Bot Sentinel wrote in its report. “It’s our opinion Twitter didn’t do enough to mitigate the platform manipulation and did very little to stop the abuse and targeted harassment.” Bot Sentinel said it gave Twitter a copy of its report before publishing it.
Depp accused Heard of defamation over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as “a public victim representing domestic abuse.” The jury found Heard defamed Depp, and he was awarded $10.4 million. The jury also decided Depp defamed Heard, and she was awarded $2 million. Attention on social media was captured by the roughly six-week long televised trial. In addition to Twitter, TikTok became a hotbed for discussion of the case, which largely appeared to be in favor of Depp. Vice reported in May that conservative media outlet The Daily Wire spent between $35,000 and $47,000 promoting articles about the trial, which had a “a clear bias against Heard,” on Instagram and Facebook, where it’s one of the most popular publishers. In June, shortly after the trial ended, the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag on TikTok had 20.4 billion views, compared to 88.6 million of the #JusticeForAmberHeard. “Even if you think that I’m lying, you still couldn’t look me in the eye and tell me that you think on social media there’s been a fair representation,” Heard said on the Today show after the verdict. Lawyers for Depp denied that social media had an impact on the verdict, and said allegations that there was a coordinated campaign created on Depp’s behalf “categorically false.”
Report finds online campaign of “widespread targeted harassment” against supporters of Amber Heard (CBS News)
Amber Heard Says She Doesn’t ‘Blame’ Jurors For Siding With Johnny Depp—But Says Trial Wasn’t ‘Fair’ (Forbes)
Johnny Depp’s Lawyers Don’t Think Verdict Will Affect #MeToo Movement (Forbes)