Anatomy by TikTok: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's pilot posts make some spin-off influencers target others

How a fake juror in Depp v. Heard’s trial spread on TikTok

While some social media investigators were quick to cast doubts about his account — including a careful scrutiny of the pixelated image of what he claimed were juror papers he posted as purported evidence of his service — the eight videos the man posted on TikTok last Thursday and Friday have garnered attention. big . Combined, the posts garnered more than two million views and were redistributed on YouTube and Instagram by the creators widely to reach more people before he deactivated the account sometime Friday evening after CNN Business attempted to obtain comment. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

The Daily Mail published his notes as “exclusive,” while also noting in the headline how little she knew him: “Man who claims to be the juror in Deb Heard trial says the moment Amber lied about donating to divorce settlement sank her case and that jury believes that Johnny was physically abusive – but not the instigator.” The Daily Mail did not respond to a request for comment. Several other outlets similarly went ahead with the story.

But the man behind the account is not a resident of Virginia where the trial took place – and he didn’t actually serve on the jury. In a text message on Sunday, the man admitted it “was just a joke.”

This is the latest development in how content creators and influencers on TikTok took advantage of a two-celebrity defamation trial, which has spawned news cycles, revealed insights into users’ awareness, and shed light on rewarded content on social media. The media.

According to Casey Fiesler, an assistant professor of information sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and one of TikToker, TikTok tends to promote content that is controversial in some ways, or the platform’s algorithm has decided who wants to see it. Because the man who pretended to be a juror in the case said he believed Depp’s story over Heard’s, it reinforced the beliefs of Depp’s supporters.

“People believe the things they want to believe, for sure,” Wessler said.

TikTok’s pseudo-juror, while posting as the “Seeks Without Borders” account, declared that he wants to remain anonymous for the time being but is “considering confirming my identity” in the future. His videos, in which he did not show his face, largely echoed criticism and common observations made by social media creators throughout the trial. He claimed he became “so uncomfortable” with Heard’s eye contact with him that he stopped looking at her while she was testifying. (Frequent eye contact with the jury was a major topic of discussion during her time on the platform.) He claimed he was a fan of Depp’s attorney, Camille Vazquez, who became such an internet sensation that one TikToker said she gave herself a Vasquez tattoo.

“I think she was really sharp and knew what she was doing and did it with intent and integrity,” @seekinginfinite said in a TikTok post, in response to another user’s question about the jury’s opinion of Vasquez. “Apart from all business matters, she wasn’t too bad in her eyes.”

Most importantly, TikToker made it clear that he doesn’t believe Heard, validating a view she spent many weeks expressing on the platform: “Everything she was saying came like bulls***,” he said in his original post, calling Heard a “crazy woman.” ”

The man is in his late twenties and works as a cinematographer. It appears he was in Hawaii during the deliberations and after the sentencing, judging by the Instagram posts. When asked Friday if the alleged juror’s badge posted by a TikToker user could be legitimate, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Public Affairs said he could not confirm based on the photo shared on TikTok. Furthermore, the spokesperson said he could not confirm the identity of the jurors who deliberated on the trial because they are sealed for one year. However, jurors are free to talk about their experience beforehand if they choose.

Adding some credence to his TikTok page was the fact that it wasn’t an entirely new account created solely for the purpose of claiming to be a sworn – there had been two previous travel-related posts. But CNN Business was able to trace the previous name and avatar of the TikTok account linked to the man elsewhere online.

“I deleted everything”

When asked if he served at the trial, he initially texted: “I’m sorry it’s none of your business,” before acknowledging he was behind the account: “I deleted everything, leave me alone and please don’t publish my information and said I don’t I give you permission to use any of my information in any article.” “There are more important things to write about, like mass shootings, climate change, war, etc.”

It is not clear what he hoped to achieve, or why he himself would dedicate the time to post about the trial given other pressing societal issues. Asked what inspired him to ever publish his sworn claim, he said, “I’m sorry but I don’t answer any other questions.”

During the trial, TikTok’s vocal majority indicated their support for Depp, whose case centered on whether Heard falsely and maliciously accused him of domestic violence in an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2018. I heard, for her part, that Depp was pushed back — and then after six weeks of listening To their cases, the jury eventually found that both Depp and Heard had defamed each other, with Depp awarded $15 million in damages and only $2 million heard.

The TikTok algorithm works in such a way that it has been marked by an endless rabbit hole of pro-Depp content, with many finding the spread by posting favorable content to Depp. According to the nature of his algorithm, on TikTok, Fisler noted that “the odds of someone with very few followers will get something that goes viral more quickly.” [that on other platforms]. ”

“My first thought was, ‘Why do people think this is real?'” Fissler said. “At the same time, there have been a lot of comments – obviously just people assuming it was real, and there was certainly nothing to back it up. There was no evidence of any kind. It seemed to me that this was exactly the kind of thing someone would do just for the sake of views or a joke or something else.”

There is an incentive for content creators to publish content that people engage with — to get more views, followers, and ultimately financial rewards if one’s platform grows enough, Fisler said.

For those who consume their news primarily through social media, the danger is in believing that what is being shown is the whole picture, Fissler said. “One of the biggest challenges with misinformation on social media is the difficulty of correcting it,” she added.

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