On Wednesday, a jury of five men and two women won in Depp’s defamation case against ex-wife Heard. For her part, Heard prevailed in her counterclaim against Depp. After the Washington Post published an opinion piece attributed to Heard in 2018, Depp accused Heard of falsely and maliciously accusing him of domestic violence, which cost him millions of dollars in lost acting jobs. While the article didn’t name Depp directly, Hurd described himself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
The verdict quickly spread across social media platforms, with conservative pundits such as Ann Coulter and Meghan McCain declaring #MeToo dead. (McCain’s tweet: “#MeToo is dead. Helluva job @ACLU” has been removed; ACLU wrote a draft of the opinion piece and helped place it. Hurd is an ambassador for the group.)
Tarana Burke, who started the Me Too movement years before it became a viral hashtag, stressed in a statement Thursday that the movement is “very active.”
People try to “kill” hashtags as a sport “every few months,” but it “means a lot to millions,” Burke said.
“You can’t kill us. We’re beyond labels. We’re a movement,” Burke says
. “The ‘Me Too’ movement isn’t dead. The system is dead.”
A few days ago, Burke’s organization, so did I.International, Issued a statement
Admitted to “a mockery of attack, humiliation and blame” in the weeks leading up to the trial, calling it “a toxic disaster and one of the greatest smears of the movement”.
Despite the seriousness of testimony throughout the trial, Hurd’s allegations of abuse were widely mocked. Because the trial is broadcast live, footage can be grabbed and turned into clips that bring perspective and new followers. Many content creators quickly learned that there is a certain audience for creating content that supports Depp, and that posts seen as sympathetic to Heard target others online.
The trial’s appearance on social media has alarmed experts.
“Not only is the extremely serious problem of domestic violence turned into a horrific sight on social media, but the mainstream media and public discourse have embraced misogynistic narratives so thoroughly that they obscure the underlying — bluntly — legal question,” Anne Franks of the University of Mary Miami School of Law told CNN Business Wednesday after the verdict.
In a 2019 paper, Franks pointed out the tension between those who support free speech and those who want to limit the ability of certain people to speak freely.
She wrote in 2019 that “the most frightening thing in American history is the speech of women, and as such has been widely regulated, criticized, and banned,” adding that “a massive women’s movement has exposed long-term Experiences and abuses of repression, such as the #MeToo movement, should be lauded as a poster child for free speech.”
She said Wednesday that the Depp v. Hurd trial essentially boiled down to “a witch trial in the digital age,” noting that it was aimed at “reversing the tiny gains made by the #MeToo movement.”
(Carrie Goldberg, an attorney whose firm is known for representing victims of online and offline sex crimes, tweet on wednesday
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a large percentage of our potential clients needing legal help against abusive exes and expressing fear of reprisals like Depp did.”
The enthusiasm for Depp was especially evident on TikTok. Shortly before the verdict was read, the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp had 18.8 billion views, while #JusticeForAmberHeard had 68.2 million views.
“It’s a big celebration on TikTok right now for Johnny Depp,” Ashley Roberts, a TikTok user who once became a supporter for expressing a different opinion, told CNN Business late Wednesday. Depp supporters and targets of men’s rights activists.
“It’s not a complete loss for her,” Roberts added, referring to the fact that Hurd won part of her countersuit, a fact she said was not acknowledged in many of the celebratory posts.
After the verdict, hostility toward Hurd intensified, with people using the hashtag #MeToo to scold her and emboldened to do so because of the verdict. Meanwhile, Hurd said she plans to appeal.