The Amber Heard and Johnny Depp legal battle is over, at least for now, but it’s clear that the defamation lawsuits are still very much on the mind of a lot of people. The lawsuits stirred up a lot of interest online, including a fair amount of harassment focused on Amber Heard. That harassment actually became part of the lawsuits, but a new report indicates that while Amber Heard believed she was the target of bots, most of the campaign against her came from actual people.
When Amber Heard filed a countersuit against Johnny Depp for defamation, one of the elements of that suit was the accusation that Depp had hired bots to troll the Aquaman actress online, as a way of controlling the online narrative. But a new report from research firm Bot Sentinel (and reported by CBS) claims that for the most part, the trolls targeting Heard and her defenders were not bots. Instead they’re seemingly people that came together and organized against her. According to Bot Sentinel founder Christopher Bouzy…
It does not necessarily mean a bunch of folks in a small room, some place in St. Petersburg that are working together. 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.
It’s potentially understandable why Amber Heard might have believed she was the target of bots. We’ve certainly seen online campaigns use bots to various ends in the past. Bot Sentinel examined more than 14,000 tweets that used four different viral hashtags. Nearly a quarter of the accounts were only created in the last seven months and a fifth of them were “dedicated to spamming.” They are referred to as “toxic trolls” in the report, so the end result here is largely the same that it would have been if they had been bots.
The social media campaign against the actress took many forms, including a call for Heard’s role in the upcoming Aquaman sequel to be recast. While that hasn’t happened, during the trial it was revealed that her role in the sequel has been reduced from what it was in early drafts of the script. Heard claimed this was due to the campaign against her. Warner Bros. claims it was a result of a perceived lack of chemistry between Heard and co-star Jason Momoa.
We likely haven’t heard the end of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp quite yet, as Heard’s legal team is currently appealing the verdict. This likely means that Amber Heard has not heard the end of social media attacks against her. The fact that they’re not an army of bots is likely cold comfort.