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Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard: Nearly 11% of Twitter Accounts Participating in Discourse are Fake

The majority inauthentic accounts were supportive of Heard

Nearly 11% of all Twitter accounts participating in discourse surrounding Johnny Depp‘s defamation trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, are inauthentic, new research shows.

The majority of those inauthentic accounts are supportive of Heard, while most authentic accounts are supportive of Depp, according to an analysis of 2,300 Twitter profiles conducted by Cyabra, a tech company dedicated to improving online distance by detecting inauthentic behavior online.

“Whenever there’s a lot of people involved, there’s always going to be some level of additional, inauthentic conversation going on around a topic,” Cyabra CEO Dan Brahmy told Fox News Digital, adding that the behavior is “usually…about drawing financial interest, or some sort of status or political interest.”

Bad actors determine what subjects will be their “prey” based on the attention certain topics receive online.

About 11% of the 2,300 total accounts discussing the trial and analyzed by Cyabra seemed inauthentic. Researchers determine which accounts appear to be inauthentic based on the other users they are interacting with, what material users post or engage with, what time they share content and so on. Algorithms can now detect accounts that may be inauthentic based on their social media behavior. 

While 11% may not seem like much, it is about on par with the percentage of inauthentic accounts that participated in “aggressive election interference,” Brahmy said.

“The average of inauthenticity usually ranges between 3% to 5%,” the CEO explained, meaning the 11% of inauthentic accounts engaged in Depp-Heard discourse is about three to four times higher than the percentage of inauthentic accounts engaged in other topics of interest. 

Brahmy added that “there was a very clear distinction between” inauthentic accounts promoting pro-Depp content and pro-Heard content.

“We didn’t just analyze Johnny Depp as a word and Amber Heard as another word because it would be difficult to skim through [that] data efficiently,” Brahmy said. Instead, the company sifted through accounts using relevant hashtags such as #IStandWithAmberHeard, #BoycottJohnnyDepp, #JusticeForJohnnyDepp, and so on.

Of the 2,300 accounts Caybra analyzed, most of the real accounts shared pro-Depp content, using hashtags such as #JusticeForJohnnyDepp, #BoycottAmberHeard and #AmberHeardIsALiar. The top inauthentic pro-Depp account received almost 20,000 shares on one post. 

Meanwhile, most of the accounts sharing pro-Heard content were inauthentic fan pages, using hashtags like #JusticeForAmberHeard, #JusticeForAmberHeard, #JohnnyDeppIsALiar and so on.

The profiles analyzed by Cyabra were engaged in Depp-Heard discussions on Twitter between March 13 and April 16, the first week of the trial that is expected to last for several weeks.

Rafi Mendelsohn, Cyabra’s vice president of marketing, said researchers were surprised by their findings.

“It was previously pretty unlikely that we thought we’d be having a conversation about misinformation when it comes to a Johnny Depp topic. Elections, yes. Wars, yes,” he said. “But actually, now, when it comes to celebrity topics…we’re finding ourselves were looking at topics, more and more, covering everyday celebrity topics.”

Mendelsohn continued: “We can now pretty confidently say that there isn’t a topic in the news at the moment…or any topic that’s being discussed on social media that isn’t being touched by the challenge and the issue of disinformation and fake profiles propagating and having an impact on the conversation in a negative way.”  

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for $50 million over an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post alleging she was the victim of domestic abuse. Heard never identified Depp directly, but attorneys for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor say her allegations have negatively impacted Depp’s career and relationship with his family.

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