New documents spark new online battle between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp fans

A hashtag defending Amber Heard surfaced on Twitter on Monday after what appeared to be unsealed court documents in Johnny Depp’s defamation case were made public by a YouTuber known for his legal commentary.

The hashtag, “#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology,” first surfaced the weekend after The daily beast released some of the findings of the court documents. Heard’s team said Depp, her ex-husband, sought to introduce nude photos of Heard into evidence, according to The Daily Beast. His attorneys also suggested that Depp altered or edited audio recordings of the couple’s fights, the publication reported.

Lawyers for Depp and Heard declined to comment. NBC News has not independently reviewed the documents, but has seen purported copies circulating online, including pages posted by YouTuber Andrea Burkhart on her website. Burkhart, a Washington-based attorney, has amassed 50,000 subscribers on YouTube, where she posts legal commentary on various celebrity lawsuits that have sparked public interest over the past year. She did not respond to request for comment.

The online support, which was spawned by some of his fans, marks a change in attitude towards Heard, who during the six-week trial in Fairfax County, Va., became the focus of backlash from Depp fans as the proceedings aired across the country.

Ever since Heard made the allegations against Depp, social media users have fiercely defended Depp. Hashtags like “#JusticeForJohnnyDepp” racked up billions of views on platforms like TikTok during the trial.

The discourse around the trial remained a common conversation on social media platforms. Some dedicated users continued to castigate Heard while praising Depp. Depp supporters and creators who covered the lawsuit, some of which have monetized their coveragealso worked for weeks to uncover new details about the case, which ended on June 1.

Depp had sued Heard for her 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, in which she said she had become a “public figure representing domestic violence.” Although the essay never mentioned Depp by name, his attorneys said it was indirectly referring to allegations she made against him during their 2016 divorce. A jury awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in his defamation lawsuit. Heard, who countersued Depp, was also awarded $2 million in compensatory damages. Punitive damages are capped at $350,000 in Fairfax County.

During the trial, Ron Schnell, the director of Berkeley Research Group, an international consulting firm, testified about the hashtags he reviewed from April 2020 to January 2022. He said he observed more than 2 million negative tweets related to Heard.

The hashtags included “JusticeForJohnnyDepp”, “AmberHeardIsAnAbuser”, “WeJustDontLikeYouAmber”, and “AmberTurd”.

Hashtags continued to explode in popularity outside of the metrics Schnell examined, including the “JusticeForJohnnyDepp” tag, which eclipsed the 2 million tags Schnell had observed.

The slander of Heard on social media has become so severe that some domestic violence survivors and Heard supporters have said they are afraid to speak.

In recent weeks, YouTuber Burkhart has been accepting donations from her channel’s viewers to pay more than $3,300 to download the new court documents, which were unsealed on July 13.

After posting the documents, which contain more than 6,000 pages, on his website, Burkhart and his supporters sparked closer scrutiny of Depp from netizens.

Some of Heard’s defenders have noted that Depp lost a libel case in the UK two years ago following allegations that he punched Heard. Depp had sued the company that owns The Sun and the newspaper’s editor for calling him a “wife beater” in 2018. A judge ruled against Depp in 2020, saying the tabloid presented substantial evidence to show that he was violent against Heard one at least 12 times out of 14.

“#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology for all who rally behind her attacker who was previously declared a battered woman by a UK court in 2020,” a Twitter user wrote.

Another person tweeted: “#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology from around the world who made fun of her, ridiculed her and ridiculed her for entertainment purposes. Apologize to Amber Heard. Start believing the victims when they speak. They they’re not lying, they’re not conspiring, they’re not crazy, they’re survivors.

“All social media and most mainstream media owe Amber a big apology. Are alone. No ‘buts’, no ‘we didn’t know’, no REAL apologies,” another user job.

Heard’s legal team filed a motion to appeal the decision last month. Depp has filed a notice of appeal against Heard the next day.

Diana Darsrath contributed.

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