On June 1, a jury ruled in favor of actor Johnny Depp in the dueling defamation cases between him and his ex-wife and actor Amber Heard. The trial garnered national media attention, including on social media, where attacks on Heard exploded.
Media Matters compiled and analyzed over 13,700 posts about the trial from news and politics Facebook pages for the duration of the trial — April 11 through June 1 — and found that nine pages affiliated with right-wing media outlet The Daily Wire dominated discussions of the trial, posting thousands of times while earning millions of interactions and video views.
Our key findings include:
- Since the beginning of the trial, news and politics pages have posted about it on Facebook over 13,700 times, earning nearly 37 million interactions.
- Nine Facebook pages affiliated with The Daily Wire posted about the trial nearly 2,500 times, earning over 6.3 million interactions.
- These posts from Daily Wire pages account for nearly 47% of posts about the trial from right-leaning pages and nearly 18% of related posts from all news and politics pages.
- Interactions earned on related posts from Daily Wire pages account for nearly 42% of interactions on posts from right-leaning pages and over 17% of interactions for all news and politics pages.
- Nearly 60% of related posts from Daily Wire pages are videos.
- Of the top 10 posts about the trial from Daily Wire pages, 9 are videos. Collectively, these videos have over 36 million views.
The Daily Wire capitalized on the hype surrounding the trial
Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire is known for its success on social media, particularly on Facebook, where its articles are distributed far more than those of reputable mainstream outlets. The outlet reportedly tried to capitalize on the hype around the trial, spending tens of thousands to amplify articles that had a clear bias in favor of Depp.
According to Vice News:
It has so far spent between $35,000 and $47,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads promoting articles about the trial, eliciting some four million impressions. The majority of these ads promote one-sided articles and videos with a clear bias against Heard. They are largely promoted via the Facebook pages of high profile conservative figures including right-wing commentator Candace Owens.
The Daily Wire ran additional ads about the trial after Vice News’ article came out.
In addition to ads, the outlet used its network of Facebook pages to share its articles about the trial with millions of followers on Facebook. In fact, 9 of The Daily Wire’s Facebook pages posted a total of nearly 2,500 times about the trial, earning over 6.3 million interactions on these posts.
Facebook posts from Daily Wire pages accounted for nearly 18% of posts about the trial from news and politics pages, and over 17% of interactions
Between when the trial started on April 11 and when the verdict was handed down on June 1, news and politics Facebook pages posted about the trial over 13,700 times, earning nearly 37 million interactions for the posts. Of these posts, nearly 5,300 of them were from right-leaning pages and they earned nearly 15.3 million interactions.
Notably, we found that 9 pages affiliated with the Daily Wire accounted for a significant portion of both the posts from right-leaning pages and the interactions earned on those posts. The Daily Wire had nearly 2,500 posts — or nearly 47% — and earned over 6.3 million interactions — or nearly 42%.
In addition to leading discussion among right-leaning pages, The Daily Wire’s pages led discussion among all news and politics pages, accounting for nearly 18% of posts about the trial from all news and politics pages, and over 17% of interactions earned on these posts.
The Daily Wire posted over 1,400 Facebook videos about the trial to garner engagement
In our analysis, we found that over 1,400 — or nearly 60% — of the Daily Wire’s posts about the trial contained videos and nearly 5 million — or roughly 77% — of interactions the outlet's pages earned were on its video posts.
Media Matters looked at the top 10 posts (with the most interactions) about the trial from the outlet’s 9 pages and found 9 of the posts were videos highlighting aspects of the trial, with some of them clearly biased against Heard. These 9 videos collectively have over 36 million views.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.
For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.
The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.
Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook's CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts for the pages on this list that were posted from April 11 through June 1, 2022, and were related to the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares) and video views.
We defined posts as related to the trial if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “Johnny Depp,” “Depp,” “Johnny,” “Amber Heard,” “Amber,” “defamation,” “verdict,” “#justiceforjohnny,” “jack sparrow,” or “captain jack.” We excluded posts with those terms that were related to irrelevant trials, other people named Johnny, or “amber alerts.”