Social Media Expert Testifies That He Saw Over One Million Negative Tweets About Amber Heard

A social media expert has told jurors that he saw over a million negative tweets about Amber Heard.
Credit: REUTERS / Alamy
Ron Schnell testified yesterday in Heard's trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp, telling the court how social media activity has been almost entirely in his favor throughout their high-profile case.

The social media expert and Berkeley Research Group member is working for Heard's legal team in the defamation lawsuit that has seen viewers glued to their screens over the past few weeks.

Pirates of the Caribbean star Depp is suing his ex-wife for $50 million over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she claimed to be a survivor of domestic abuse. Depp, 58, maintains that he was the real victim of abuse in their turbulent marriage, and claims that the article wrecked both his reputation and his career.

Heard, meanwhile, is countersuing for $100 million and citing multiple occasions during their relationship when she alleges Depp was physically abusive.

Since the trial started last month, there's been a slew of internet memes and online activity around the embattled celebrity exes. In particular, many Depp fans have leaped to the actors' defense, taking the opportunity to slam Heard and proclaim that her allegations are entirely false.

Now, social media expert Schnell has given the court in Fairfax, Virginia, an insight into exactly how polarized the online reaction has been.

Schnell said that 'Justice For Johnny' had been the most widely used hashtag during the trial, adding that many of the tweets using the hashtag were negative towards 36-year-old Heard.

"The tweets that had the hashtag 'Justice for Johnny Depp', how many of them were negative towards Miss Heard?" one of Heard's lawyers asked. Schnell replied: "All of them".

According to the expert, a random sample of tweets taken from the hashtag expressed negative opinions toward the Aquaman star.

He added that there had been huge spikes in the hashtag's use following statements made by Depp's former attorney Adam Waldman in April 2020.

"It was clearly double as many [negative tweets] from April [2020] to 2021," he told the court. Overall, Schnell studied tweets between April 2020 and January 2021, but he added on the witness stand that his assessment was that there had been no change in negativity towards Heard since January 2021.

Schnell's testimony was submitted by Heard's legal team to support their claim that Depp and Waldman are behind a social media smear campaign meant to discredit his ex-wife.

In the past few days, other experts have speculated that the avalanche of social media hate directed at Heard is the result of targetted bots.

Investigative journalist Alexa O’Brien tweeted on Monday: "There is some serious bot activity happening around this depp/heard trial – at the level of subversive propaganda – insane swarms – propagation of false accounts of trial – haven’t seen anything like this before."

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