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How the Johnny Depp case took over the internet, and what this could mean for victims of domestic violence

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Testimony in the six-week Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard defamation trial comes to a close on Friday. The actors were married for 15 months between 2015 and 2016, then separated amidst a bitter, high-profile divorce during which Heard accused Depp of domestic violence. Now, the couple is embroiled in an intense defamation case over the abuse allegations. The case has caused a media frenzy, with many fans coming forward in support of Depp with hashtags such as #JusticeforJohnny, and some engaging in online harassment toward Heard. As the jury begins its deliberations, Northeastern experts say that regardless of the outcome, this oversized reaction may have social consequences that will resonate far beyond the trial itself.

At the heart of the case is whether Heard defamed Depp when she wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in December 2018 claiming that she was a domestic abuse survivor. While Depp is not named in the article, in his March 2019 lawsuit he claims that it “plainly was about” him and that it “brought new damage to Depp’s reputation and career.” According to the lawsuit, Disney dropped Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after the article was published. He is suing for $50 million, and she is countersuing for $100 million.

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