COURTROOM DRAMA, TIKTOKS & LIVE STREAMS
Two huge legal disputes continue to overshadow other stories and content by dominating social media platforms across the world. Soundbites from the extremely public and controversial civil defamation trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp are gaining views on YouTube and TikTok (where “#JusticeForJohnnny” clips have been viewed a staggering 13.4 billion times). Endless ‘hot takes’ are published daily. Content creators are cashing in on the case, feeding the algorithm with remixed snippets and cuts from the testimony. Fans are camping outside the courtroom livestreaming and lawyers are sharing their insights on the nuances of the case. As well as reminding us all of the captivating power of the live stream, these content trends from the case have served as a reminder of the dark side of online debate.
The credibility of sources and commentary is one concern, especially from the perspective of gender equality: “This is QAnon 2022, with the Q drops being daily TikToks analyzing the secrets hidden in Amber's body language. This trial has given people brain worms, and it is beyond depressing to see how much so many people really, truly hate women.” Embedded Newsletter. We’ve written about TikTok and misinformation in more depth here.
On top of this, the majority of the clips created on TikTok have been critical of Heard and her testimony. Many have reacted to this as a reflection of modern pop-culture’s worst impulses: “Around the third or fourth time I logged into Twitter to find “#AmberHeardIsAPsychopath” at the top of the trending list, I realized that there was no longer any pretending that the Depp-Heard defamation trial was not a terrible, foreboding reflection of our culture’s worst impulses… It has proven to extremists that if you rally around the right beloved public figure or institution, blanket them in a protective sphere of outrage and misinformation, and weaponize fandom culture — already so prone to ideological radicalization and irrational groupthink — you can successfully push whatever media narrative you want into the mainstream.” Aja Romano
As the case gains attention, brands have gotten sucked into the drama too. Language-learning app Duolingo, which has been celebrated in the brand marketing world for its use of TikTok, has come under scrutiny after its social media team left an ‘insensitive’ comment about Heard on a viral TikTok video.
Elsewhere, another case full of celebrity drama has been unfolding in the UK. A lighter subject matter (leaking news to the press) has had people gripped to Whatsapp transcripts of the #WagathaChristie drama. Butterkist Popcorn responded with a reactive campaign in line with its ‘Go Grab the Butterkist’ creative. It follows a similarly successful reactive moment around Partygate and the UK Prime Minister.