On Wednesday, a jury of five men and two women awarded Depp a victory in his libel suit against Heard, his ex-wife. Heard, for his part, prevailed in part on his counterclaim against Depp. Depp accused Heard of falsely and maliciously accusing him of domestic violence, which cost him millions of dollars in damages for the loss of acting jobs after an opinion piece attributed to Heard was was published by The Washington Post in 2018. Although the article did not directly name Depp, Heard described herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence.”
The verdict quickly made its way onto social media platforms, with some conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Meghan McCain declaring #MeToo dead. (McCain’s tweet, which read, “#MeToo is dead. Helluva job @ACLU” has since been deleted; the ACLU drafted the opinion piece and helped place it. Heard is an ambassador organisation.)
Tarana Burke, who started the “Me Too” movement years before it became a viral hashtag, said in a statement Thursday that the movement is “very much alive.”
Burke said people try to “kill” the hashtag “every few months” as a sport, but “it means something to millions and millions of people.”
“You can’t kill us. We are beyond the hashtag. We are a movement”, Burke said
. “The ‘me too’ movement is not dead. The system is dead.”
A few days earlier, Burke’s organization, me too. International, issued A declaration
acknowledging the “mockery of assault, shame and blame” over the weeks of the trial, calling it “a toxic disaster and one of the movement’s greatest vilifications”.
Despite the seriousness of the testimony throughout the trial, Heard’s abuse allegations were largely derided. Because the trial was broadcast live, it was possible to grab footage and turn it into clips that attracted views and new subscribers. Many content creators quickly learned that there was an audience for creating pro-Depp content, while posts seen as sympathetic to Heard made others targets online.
The way the trial unfolded on social media has experts alarmed.
“It is not only that the extremely serious problem of domestic violence has turned into a grim spectacle on social media, but also that mainstream media and public discourse have so deeply embraced the misogynistic narrative that has obscured the underlying and simple legal issues,” Mary Anne Franks of the University of Miami Law School told CNN Business on Wednesday after the verdict.
Franks, in a 2019 article, pointed out the contradictions between those who support free speech and those who wish to restrict what some can speak freely about.
It is “women’s speech that has been most feared, and therefore widely regulated, criticized, and banned throughout American history,” she wrote in 2019, adding that “a mass movement of women speaking out against experiences and abuses that have long been suppressed, such as the #MeToo movement, should be hailed as the quintessential exercise of free speech.”
The Depp v Heard lawsuit, she said on Wednesday, was essentially “a witch trial in the digital age”, noting that the intention was “to roll back minor progress made by the #MeToo movement”. .
(Carrie Goldberg, an attorney whose firm is known for representing victims of online and offline sex crimes, tweeted Wednesday
: “We had a good % of potential clients who needed legal help against an abusive ex and who expressed terror at how they fear retaliation like Depp.”
The pro-Depp fervor was particularly evident on TikTok. Shortly before the verdict was read, the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp had garnered 18.8 billion views, while #JusticeForAmberHeard had only amassed 68.2 million.
“It’s a massive celebration on TikTok right now for Johnny Depp,” Ashley Roberts, a TikTok user who has previously found herself in the crosshairs of pro-Depp supporters and rights activists, told CNN Business Wednesday night. men for expressing a different point of view.
“It was not an absolute total loss for her,” Roberts added, referring to the fact that Heard won part of her counterclaim, a fact which she says is not acknowledged in many of the posts. celebration.
After the verdict, hostility towards Heard raged, with people using the hashtag #MeToo to berate her and feeling emboldened by the verdict to do so. Heard, meanwhile, has indicated that she plans to appeal.