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How the meme about the Depp-Heard trial affects the actual outcome

Warning: This story contains details of intimate violence.

If you’re using a major social media platform, you’re probably aware now. Tweets, TikTok videos, and other posts about the defamation trial involving actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, which began in mid-April. Since then, it has become an unavoidable source of virus content.

Depp accused his ex-wife, Hard, of $ 50 million in a civil proceeding in the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia, alleging that he had defamed him in a Washington Post editorial.

However, the details of defamation proceedings have fallen virtually on the roadside in recent weeks when it comes to Internet content related to trials. Even now, livestreamed online and started by the jury, critics say that legal action has evolved into a source of frivolous entertainment.

“This is a meme of domestic violence,” said Farakan, a defender of gender justice and a consensus director at the Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).

“I’m seeing a surge in false information about domestic violence trials. I’m seeing people seeing entertainment in it. The content creator said,” This is my brand. Is the way to actually build it. ” “

On TikTok and Twitter, users praise and blame either party by pulling audio and video clips from a trial where Depp and Hard are talking about the sad details of their marriage. Hard, who opposes Depp for US $ 100 million, has been the target of a particularly vicious hatred of TikTok, Khan said.

“I’m watching with content creators, especially TikTok … jumping into this tendency to use audio from trials, especially when talking about Amber Heard being beaten and beaten, raped, re-enacted and ridiculed. I’ll talk about that. I thought it was sexy. “

Haad testified that she had been sexually assaulted by Depp many times during her short marriage. Depp denied her claim and stated that Haad was actually the person who physically abused him.

“We really have to think about how sexual assault, domestic violence is becoming entertainment or seen as a joke,” Khan said.

Actor Johnny Depp waved to his supporters as he left Fairfax County Hall on Friday. That afternoon, the jury trial began deliberations. (Craig Hudson / Associated Press)

Another interesting trend is the use of fan cams. This is a type of montage-style video that is popular online by K-POP fans. — This acts like a reel of “highlights” that either party envisions during proceedings. For example, Depp fans Pirates of the Caribbean The star has an ironic interaction with a hard lawyer.

Paula Todd, a lawyer and media professor at Seneca College, said the online enthusiasm made the trial feel like a football match.

“‘Who do you want to win?’ I’m always asked about this.’Which side are you on?’This is strange.” “I’m not on either side. The idea of ​​the trial is that as much genuine evidence as possible is placed in front of the jury.”

What is true and what is not?

As the trial spread like a wildfire across social media, there is also false information surrounding it.

Fact-checking website Snopes has refuted some popular plots about hardware. Talented Mr. Ripley..

According to Vox Media, there is speculation that automated Twitter bots are contributing to the online turmoil.

However, Aengus Bridgman, director of the Media Ecosystem Observatory at McGill University in Montreal, says he thinks bots are probably not very active.

“In general, I think bot activities are exaggerated for this,” Bridgeman said. Of the 23,000 accounts analyzed for involvement in the trial, a study by Israel-based tracking company Cyabra found 11 percent It was a bot account.

Actor Johnny Depp leaves court on Friday. Depp and Amber Heard’s lawyers made closing arguments to a Virginia jury in a civil suit against Depp’s ex-wife. (Craig Hudson / Associated Press)

Ninety-three percent According to NBC News, the Depp side of the analyzed account.

“What you really want to see is how much of this is being pushed organically, and who is doing it,” Bridgeman said. “Johnny Depp has this large number of people who are very passionate about the incident.”

So who is behind this enthusiastic brigade of Depp supporters? According to Bridgeman, it’s mostly young people who spend a lot of their time at hand.

“They have very digital literacy. They have different political positions,” he added. “Therefore, when using online conversation, it’s very appealing to think that it represents society as a whole in some way, but what you’re actually capturing is the top of the users who are deeply involved and capable. 1% action. Push these stories forward. “

Brands and celebrities are joining — but for what?

According to Celia Lam, a fan engagement expert at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China, some brands, content creators and celebrities may be taking advantage of the zeitgeist position of the case.

“Trials and celebrities are the topic of the day and the’hot topic’for using social media terminology,” Ram wrote in an email to CBC News. “Relationships with these hot topics bring personal or brand uplifting.”

Amber Heard departs Fairfax County Hall on Friday. (Craig Hudson / Associated Press)

Brands such as cosmetics company Milani Cosmetics and language learning app Duolingo have created headlines for posting about trials on social media. Lance Bass, a former member of the pop group NSYNC, posted his TikTok, a reproduction of Heard’s testimony, and immediately deleted it. Saturday night live He downplayed the trial during the May episode.

And content creators themselves, especially those who have acquired followers online to provide detailed commentary and live minutes, are benefiting from the billions of clicks triggered by the trial.

That doesn’t mean that everyone in the trial is opportunistic, Lamb said. Some really want to express their support, while others just comment on everyday cultural discourse. Others want to consider the social aspects of the trial.

“For a variety of reasons, it generally speaks to the importance of the event.”

Actual impact

The jury trial in the Depp / Heard trial is not quarantined. In the meantime, the judge asked them to refrain from reading the case online, even if they instructed them to turn off their cell phones.

“Of course, the question with that is how many juries do what they were told,” said lawyer Todd.

Dan Kim will be demonstrating on Friday outside Fairfax County Hall in support of Amber Heard as a supporter of the actor Johnny Depp rally. (Craig Hudson / Associated Press)

After all, this case is difficult to avoid online. According to Bridgman, accidental exposure could be one of the reasons people who aren’t involved in the incident in other ways are seeing the incident pop up on social media feeds. You may just be finding them.

The wide visibility of the trial is much more important when combined with the trivial things online.

“My goal is true, because all these people I’ve met over the years have killed me … these people will think I’m a scam,” Depp testified in April. did.

In Thursday’s testimony, she heard that she had been threatened with murder through a publicly broadcast proceeding.

“Harassment and humiliation, a campaign against me that echoes on social media every day, and now I have to relive trauma every day in front of the camera in the showroom.”

Jokes and memes about domestic violence have serious consequences in reality, Khan said.

“Jokes are ideas … this idea of ​​being able to insult, police, persecute, and punish people. It’s harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse. And if people like it. , It will lead to other things, like sexual assault, physical violence, murder. “

“So I don’t think these are jokes,” she said. “These are the lives of real people.”


Anyone who has been abused or assaulted can get support.You can access the crisis line and local support services through End of Canadian Violence Association Database..Canadian Women’s Foundation Signal for help Is a quiet one-handed gesture used in video calls to indicate that you are at risk of violence at home. Call 911 if you are in imminent risk or if you are afraid of the safety of yourself or others.