'Who trolled Amber Heard?' New Tortoise podcast dives deep

 (Yui Mok / PA)
(Yui Mok / PA)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A recent investigation has revealed that accounts connected to Saudi Arabia were responsible for an internet trolling campaign against Amber Heard.

Heard endured a torrent of derogatory notes throughout her publicised legal disputes with her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.They declared Depp innocent of charges of domestic assault while branding her a “traitor”, “abuser”, and “liar”.

What did ‘Who trolled Amber?’ discover?

In the run-up to the 2022 defamation lawsuit, more than 50 per cent of anti-Heard Tweets were found to be "inauthentic" by Tortoise Media, which looked through over a million tweets. These messages could have come from automated "bot" accounts or individuals who were paid to criticise the actress.

Several of the accounts, according to the Tortoise podcast Who Trolled Amber?, tweeted in Arabic, praising the Saudi government or crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country's ruler.The prince's acquaintance, Johnny Depp, is said to have spent more than seven weeks in Saudi Arabia last year, lodging in camps and royal mansions before taking Bin Salman's personal 747 back to London to see a rock concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

There was just a "0.1 per cent chance", according to an intelligence specialist who monitors internet misinformation campaigns, that the hate speech directed at Heard was coming from true Depp fans.The research also asserts that a significant amount of pro-Depp tweets were sent by bot networks located in Thailand and Spain.

#AmberHeardIsAnAbuser was used in more than 800,000 tweets between 2016 and 2022, according to Tortoise.The podcast's creators contend that Heard's criticism may have influenced the jury in Depp's favour during the US defamation trial in 2022, because they were not sequestered and were free to keep their phones.In a previous libel case, Depp sued the Sun newspaper in the UK for referring to him as a "wife beater" but he lost. Twelve of the 14 reported cases of domestic abuse, according to the judge, Mr Justice Nicol, had actually happened.

Alexi Mostrous, presenter of the podcast, said the case has “wider ramifications” for the upcoming important elections in America and Britain, as well as other countries.

“This year is the biggest election year in history. Billions of people in more than 50 countries – not least America and very likely Britain – will go to the polls. It feels like democracy itself is on the ballot.

“At the same time, it’s becoming easier to pump out misinformation online… So, if you couldn’t tell the difference between a real-life Johnny Depp fan and a bot in 2022, then you probably won’t be able to tell a Russian troll from a US election official in 2024. And that represents a serious problem for the security of our democracies.”

Depp and the Saudi Embassy are yet to respond to Tortoise’s findings and request for comment.