As anyone who’s been on social media for the past few months can tell you, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial generated a significant amount of activity. Whether you were on Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, or even Facebook, there was no shortage of content, which predominantly skewed towards Depp and attacked Heard’s credibility. Even Chris Rock got in on the action.
Adding to that online fury were widespread anecdotes of social media users being swarmed by Depp fans on Twitter if they spoke critically of the actor or even just sympathetically towards Heard. While the overwhelming theory is that Depp’s team employed the use of fake accounts in Russia (a.k.a. “bots”) to boost support for the actor on social media, a new study reportedly suggests that’s not entirely the case. According to Bot Sentinel, yes, an “organized campaign of widespread targeted harassment,” but there were actual people behind the attacks.
“It does not necessarily mean a bunch of folks in a small room, some place in St. Petersburg that are working together,” Bot Sentinel founder Christopher Bouzy told CBS News. “It could just be a group of people who are against Amber Heard, and they decide on another platform — whether it’s Switch or Discord or whatever — ‘we’re going to attack, let’s coordinate together.'”
Bouzy’s firm found that Heard supporters “were attacked relentlessly,” often with “vulgar and threatening language.” It wrote in the report that, “offensive tweets, misogyny, doxxing, and death threats were rampant” in tweets targeting Heard supporters. The report includes a disclaimer that the firm was previously hired by Heard’s legal team, in 2020, to analyze traffic related to Heard and Depp. However, Bouzy said the research published Monday was undertaken independently, after observing what appeared to be harassment and platform manipulation.
According to the full report, which you can read here, the harassment campaign was described as “one of the worst cases of cyberbullying and cyberstalking by a group of Twitter accounts that we’ve ever seen.” Bot Sentinel also concluded that Twitter failed to act accordingly to protect users.
“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,” the report stated. “Twitter essentially left the women to fend for themselves with little to no support from the platform.”
(Via CBS News)