Twitter trolls have engaged in “rampant abuse and widespread targeted harassment” of women on the social network who have voiced support for Amber Heard, according to a research firm that had previously been hired by lawyers representing Heard in her defamation court case with Johnny Depp.
The firm, Bot Sentinel, analyzed 14,292 tweets that included at least one of four viral anti-Heard hashtags — #AmberHeardIsAnAbuser, #AmberHeardLsAnAbuser, #AmberHeardIsALiar and #AmberHeardLsALiar — and found that 24% of the accounts that posted them were created within the past seven months. In the report, released Monday, Bot Sentinel said that “abusive trolls who identified as Johnny Depp supporters had subjected women to verbal abuse and targeted harassment.” (Accounts used #AmberHeardLsAnAbuser and #AmberHeardLsALiar with the letter “I” purposely replaced with the letter “L” to deceive Twitter’s algorithms, according to Bot Signal.)
More from Variety
“Toxic trolls continued to tweet anti-Amber Heard hashtags and attack women weeks after the Depp vs. Heard trial ended,” Bot Sentinel wrote in the report.
In at least one case, pro-Depp trolls “doxxed a woman’s family and created a fake Twitter account using a photo of the woman’s deceased child to troll her,” according to Bot Sentinel.
In the report, the company disclosed that Heard’s lawyers had contacted Bot Sentinel in 2020 and hired it “to determine whether the social media activity against Ms. Heard was organic or if there was some other explanation” (and the company concluded that “a significant portion of the activity wasn’t organic”). For the report released Monday, the firm claimed, “Neither Amber Heard nor anyone from her team hired Bot Sentinel to review the activity. No one hired Bot Sentinel to compile and publish this report.”
Last week, Heard’s motion for a mistrial in her defamation suit with Depp was dismissed by a Virginia judge, who found no grounds to overturn the jury’s verdict in Depp’s favor.
That came after the two-month trial concluded on June 1, with the jury finding that Heard had defamed Depp by alluding to domestic violence allegations against him in a December 2018 op-ed. They awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, the latter of which was reduced to $350,000 under the statutory damages cap. The jury also held Depp liable for a defamatory statement made about Heard by his lawyer, and awarded her $2 million.
According to Bot Sentinel’s website, founder Christopher Bouzy founded the organization in 2018 as a community-funded project “to help fight disinformation and targeted harassment.” “We believe Twitter users should be able to engage in healthy online discourse without inauthentic accounts, toxic trolls, foreign countries, and organized groups manipulating the conversation,” the company says.
Bot Sentinel said it sent Twitter a list of several hundred accounts that the company determined “violated multiple rules and policies of the platform,” including violent threats and platform manipulation. “Twitter essentially left the women to fend for themselves with little to no support from the platform,” Bot Sentinel wrote in the July 18 report.
Asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson said, “Our teams are reviewing the accounts flagged in this report, and will take action according to the Twitter Rules.”
Best of Variety