A hashtag defending Amber Heard trended Monday on Twitter after what appeared to be unsealed court documents in the defamation case brought by Johnny Depp were made public by a YouTuber known for her legal commentary.
The hashtag, “#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology,” first surfaced over the weekend after The Daily Beast published some of the findings from 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. Her lawyers also suggested that Depp altered or edited audio recordings of the couple fighting, the publication reported.
Attorneys for Depp and Heard declined to comment. NBC News has not independently reviewed the documents, but it has seen purported copies circulating online, including pages posted by YouTuber Andrea Burkhart on her website. Burkhart, a lawyer based in Washington, has amassed 50,000 followers on YouTube, where she posts legal commentary about various celebrity trials that have generated public interest in the last year. She did not respond to request for comment.
The online support, which was spawned by some of her fans, marks a shift in attitude towards Heard, who, during the six-week trial in Fairfax County, Virginia, became the center of backlash from Depp fans while the proceedings were broadcast across the country
Since Heard brought 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 has remained a common conversation on social media platforms. Some dedicated users have continued to lambaste Heard while praising Depp. Supporters of Depp and the creators who covered the trial, some of whom monetized their coverage, have also worked for weeks to uncover new details about the case, which concluded June 1.
Depp had sued Heard over her 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, in which she said she had become a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the essay never mentioned Depp by name, his attorneys said it indirectly referred 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 suit. 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 examined 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 the parameters Schnell examined, including the “JusticeForJohnnyDepp” tag, which eclipsed the 2 million tags Schnell had observed.
The maligning of Heard on social media became so severe that some survivors of domestic abuse and supporters of Heard said they were frightened to speak out.
In recent weeks, Burkhart, the YouTuber, accepted donations from viewers of her channel to pay over $3,300 to download the new court documents, which were unsealed on July 13.
After publishing the documents, which contain more than 6,000 pages, on her website, Burkhart and her followers ignited more scrutiny of Depp from people online.
Some of Heard’s defenders noted that Depp lost a libel case in the United Kingdom two years ago over allegations that he hit Heard. Depp had sued the company that owns The Sun and the newspaper’s executive editor for calling him a “wife beater” in 2018. A judge ruled against Depp in 2020, saying the tabloid had presented substantial evidence to show that he was violent against Heard on at at least 12 of 14 occasions.
“#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology for everyone rallying around her abuser who had already been declared a wife-beater by a UK court back in 2020,” a Twitter user wrote.
Another person tweeted: “#AmberHeardDeservesAnApology from the entire world that mocked, ridiculed her and derided her for entertainment purposes. Apologize to Amber Heard. Start believing victims when they speak up. They are not lying, they are not conspiring, they are not crazy, they are survivors.”
“All of social media & most of mainstream media owes Amber a big apology. A real one. No ‘buts’, no ‘we didn’t know’, no a REAL apology,” another user posted.
Heard’s legal team filed a motion to appeal the ruling last month. Depp filed a notice of appeal against Heard the next day.
Diana Dasrath contributed.