Johnny Depp: guilty until proven innocent

Amber Heard filed for a divorce from Johnny Depp last week after only 15 months of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. A few days later, Heard filed for an additional restraining order, which was granted at a hearing in Los Angeles on Friday. As soon as the pictures of a sombre, black-clad and visibly bruised Heard emerged, Twitter was awash with the kind of virtue-signalling vilification that only a social-media jury could produce.

Despite nobody knowing what has really gone on between Heard and Depp, Depp has been the recipient of a similar level of character assassination to that meted out to music producer Dr Luke, after abuse allegations were made against him by the popstar Kesha earlier this year. In Dr Luke’s case, celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Lorde and Kelly Clarkson came out in support of the #FreeKesha campaign, and encouraged their fans to presume Dr Luke’s guilt.

Likewise, many people online are presuming Depp’s guilt. Legions of tweeters have already declared that they will be boycotting Depp’s latest film, Alice Through the Looking Glass, released the very same Friday as the allegations were made. Furthermore, a venue in Sweden hosting Depp’s band, the Hollywood Vampires, was effectively boycotted, with a social-media mob likening attendees to enablers. The backlash was so severe that an organiser, Annika Troselius, spoke out to People magazine: ‘Johnny Depp should be allowed to have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.’ Troselius is right. But her voice has been drowned out by the overwhelming roar of the Twitter jury.

Trials by social media have become all too familiar. The truth now comes second to the opinions of the pack. Most believe their ‘support’ of Heard helps the cause of the abused. But the opposite is true. In treating allegations as fact, these judges, juries and executioners threaten the reputations and livelihoods of those who could just as easily be proven innocent. We abandon the presumption of innocence at our peril.

Aidan Lonergan is a spiked intern.

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