The lawsuit between Depp and Heard was everywhere, all the time, thanks to algorithms and bots

For those who came online last month, there did not seem to be an escape: the Depp versus Heard case.

Millions of social media users around the world witnessed a civil lawsuit in which actor Johnny Depp sought compensation from his ex, actress Amber Heard, who – without mentioning him – in an opinion piece from 2018 in Washington Post allegedly accused of abuse and partner violence. Depp demanded fifty million dollars from Heard for missing roles, Heard in turn demanded double as the jury finds in her favor.

The jury of seven members met on Friday after the closing arguments from both parties in the case. The jury may take as long to consider as it deems necessary. The jury will resume its deliberations next Tuesday.

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The global craze of recent weeks is reminiscent of the hype surrounding a new hit series on Netflix. Everywhere one could see livestreams of the business, podcasts with debriefings and so-called summaries (summaries) if you missed a revelation in the courtroom. And also offline, around the familiar coffee machine, in many places the question was: are you team-Depp or team-Heard? One would almost forget that the two actors played themselves in this case.

The phenomenon reminded some observers of the arrest and subsequent public trial against OJ Simpson in the 1990s. A collective obsession with a superstar’s alleged transgressions. The similarities between the two cases are obvious.

With the understanding that in 2022 the world not only looks but also speaks back. In heated chat panels, for example, in addition to livestreams on YouTube. Anyone who wanted to stand out in the sea of ​​messages sometimes had to pay up to hundreds of dollars to be presented with a message.

Algorithms, bots and tilt image

The algorithms from the major news sites and social media platforms eager to direct Internet traffic to the lowest common denominator were still lacking in the 1990s. Do not forget that at that time there were so-called bots (manipulated online traffic) that would have been used by the Depp camp in particular to push videos and articles arguing in his favor in the speed of the people. “I have not followed the case,” he wrote New York Timescritic Amanda Hess in an analysis, “the case followed me.”

A unique tale about a woman who stood in her right against a powerful man began to tilt during the case. The nuance that a British judge had already stated that the British newspaper The sun Calling him a man who beat his wife because there seemed to be sufficient basis for Heard’s accusations was thus lost to the general public in the United States. At that time, in 2020, that case aroused considerably less controversy.

These online offensives have usually not affected the referees themselves. As usual in American trials, they were shut off from the outside world during the trial. It is precisely the discussions about the case that did occasionally seep into the courtroom. Camp-Depp, for example, called a Twitter user as a witness because he wanted incriminating information about Heard. And in the concluding argument, Camp Heard referred to the online “defamation campaign” by Depp and his followers.

Also read this profile about Johnny Depp from 2019: The problem with Johnny Depp

It is therefore doubtful how harmful this struggle for image formation has actually been for the legal process. It seems more interesting to weigh the significance of the issue outside the courtroom. What does Depp vs Heard say about this moment in our culture?

eagerly followed

The zeal with which Internet users – who may have sought distraction, from pandemic and war news – took to this story was reminiscent of the popularity of so-called juice channels, which pump one juicy piece of delicacy after another about fallen stars into the online ether.

After spreading disinformation and influencing democratic processes, entertainment seems to be the new cash cow for click-driven tech companies and news media that have successfully intertwined their revenue model on these platforms. An insecure private #MeToo problem then quickly turns into a soap opera saga to keep people glued to their screens. With the promise of real influence on the outcome in general as spies in Yvonne Coldeweijer ‘spy army’ e.g. Or as online jurors, chatting with thousands of others while debating in court.

TikTok makes it a sport

Almost a quarter of a century after the advent of Truman Show, the iconic film about a city where almost all the inhabitants have ended up as actors in a reality soap, we no longer look at ourselves and each other, but – as usual almost – at the stars and their misfortunes. Even though nowadays it’s more than just looking: many imagine themselves – just like in Truman Show – also actors in this soap. 24-hour television turned that kind of celebrity case into a spectacle, TikTok turns it into a sport, writes Amanda Hess in this article New York Times† A game where the boundaries between offline and online reality have de facto disappeared.

“A Key to Understanding Our Times,” as American critics called it Truman Show then according to NRCcorrespondent from Washington. He was quite skeptical of this, with all praise for the ‘subtle comedy’ itself. “Television shows a lot of rubbish, and every day presents all kinds of forgeries as authentic reality. But whether it really controls many people’s lives and enslaves us all is questionable. “

A quarter of a century later, there is little left of the reasonable doubt. In the end, however, it was not the screen on our television, but on our computer and later our phone, that turned out to be the place where the prophetic aspects emerge. Truman Show came to full maturity. Billions of citizens worldwide were willing to voluntarily give up privacy in order to constantly share intimacy from their lives with others.

If you are looking for a key to gain a good understanding of this time, it is better to contact Do not look up rightly, the Netflix movie where the world, in the face of an impending disaster, gets lost in trivialities. Although it ends much more grimly than Truman Show

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