Misleading YouTube Videos About Depp v. Heard Trial Thrive On the Platform

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's defamation trial has brought out the good, the bad and the ugly sides of social media, with fans and celebrities alike weighing in and sharing their takes on the court proceedings.

With "#JusticeForJohnnyDepp" and "#JusticeForAmberHeard" frequently trending across platforms in the weeks since the trial began, observers have shared everything from opinions to theories and viral videos on the matter.

While the ensuing arguments and rebuttals grip the airspace of Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, an influx of hugely misleading videos discussing the trial have flooded YouTube, with one overriding theme—they're all distinctly anti-Heard.

Johnny Depp And Amber Heard In Court
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's ongoing defamation trial has become the subject of a slew of misleading YouTube videos. Heard is pictured testifying at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Virginia. Depp (inset) is seen at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse. JIM LO SCALZO/Getty

"SHE'S A PSYCHO," reads the title for one clip. "James Corden Reveals Amber Heard Is A SICK Liar And Johnny Depp Deserves Justice."

Those drawn into clicking on the link anticipating potentially riveting viewing about Corden's purported revelations will find no words from the Late Late Show host, who has never publicly disparaged Heard. Still, it has clocked up more than 325,000 views since its April 15 upload.

Similarly, one of Heard's co-stars has a featuring role in another video title that declares: "Jason Momoa Speaks On Firing Amber Heard From Aquaman." He's also apparently "SICK OF HER LIES."

Untrue? Yes, of course. But it has still attracted 2.6 million clicks in the three weeks since it first trotted out for curious eyes on YouTube.

Impressive though it would be that Heard could at once memorize the scripts from multiple films she has never even appeared in, it's safe to say that the video titled "Top 10 Movie Quotes Amber Heard Stole For Her Testimony" will prove disappointing.

And skip over the video advertising that "Johnny Depp's Children Speak Up Against Amber Heard In Court." They most certainly did not.

"Spreading Like Wildfire"

Journalist Carlos Maza, who has criticized YouTube in the past, shared screenshots of some of the aforementioned videos as he pointed out how popular the videos had become, despite their glaring inaccuracies.

"Hard to overstate what a cesspool YouTube has become around the Heard-Depp trial," Maza wrote on Twitter last week. "All of these videos are fabrications—the thumbnail quotes aren't even close to real—but they're spreading like wildfire."

The post attracted a flood of comments from Twitter users who also complained that they have found themselves inundated with false information online.

While the videos have remained on YouTube for weeks in some cases, the platform states that it does have a policy against misinformation.

"YouTube does not allow misleading or deceptive content that poses a serious risk of egregious harm," reads a statement regarding its guidelines. "When it comes to misinformation, we need a clear set of facts to base our policies on."

Newsweek has contacted representatives of YouTube and Heard for comment.

"Opinion Content Masquerading as Journalism"

While it would seem that the simple solution would be for platforms to remove grossly misleading information, Evan Nierman, CEO of international crisis PR agency Red Banyan, told Newsweek that it isn't so straightforward.

"At present, there is no feasible way for the platforms to eliminate or even rein in opinion content masquerading as journalism," Nierman said. "Moving forward, schools and parents will need to invest heavily in teaching children how to evaluate the information they receive to separate fiction from fact."

While those videos linger on the web, so, too, do the effects of their content—opening up the potential for reputational damage in a online world where reading beyond the headline has all but been relegated to a quaint custom.

Jason Momoa and James Corden
(L-R) Jason Momoa and James Corden are among those who have been misrepresented in YouTube videos discussing the trial, with both stars having false statements attributed to them. David Livingston/FilmMagic;/Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

"The internet has democratized and accelerated the sharing of information, and technology makes it simple for anyone to play the role of journalist, editor and distribution channel," Nierman said. "An entire generation relies upon social media content and not traditional media to gather and share news and analysis of current events."

"A person's reputation built over a lifetime can disintegrate in literally minutes thanks to the pervasive power of social media," he added.

Depp, 58, sued Heard, 36, for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post, in which she said that she was a domestic abuse survivor.

While Heard did not name Depp in the article, his lawyers have argued that it was clear she was referring to the actor. Heard is countersuing for $100 million for nuisance.

In their testimonies, Depp and Heard have accused one another of domestic violence. Both have denied the allegations.

"Social Media Sensation"

Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the details of the trial appear to have been woven into the fabric of social media entertainment in unprecedented form.

"The Heard-Depp trial contains the perfect elements to make it a social media sensation: high-profile people giving dramatic testimony on camera talking about outrageous events involving sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, violence and psychological warfare," Nierman explained.

"The recorded videos and phone calls being played in court and the wall-to-wall video coverage of the trial itself are producing a limitless smorgasbord of content that creators are feasting upon."

Depp and Heard are set to resume on May 16 following a weeklong break due to a previously scheduled engagement for Judge Penney Azcarate.