‘Judge Rules That Britney Spears is Allowed to Commit Crimes’

On November 15 2021, a screenshot of a purported headline reading “Judge Rules That Britney Spears Is Allowed to Commit Crimes” circulated on Facebook, often without any context:

Judge Rules That Britney Spears is Allowed to Commit Crimes.

Based on visual cues, the headline appeared to originate with the New York Times. It circulated against a backdrop of news about the “Free Britney” movement and stories that a judge had finally ended Spears’ lengthy conservatorship

The #FreeBritney Movement, Explained

That screenshot appeared to originate with a November 13 2021 tweet by Twitter account @InternetHippo:

Commenters on Twitter often commented in ostensible support of the headline’s content:

“a judge ruling that a celebrity is allowed to commit crimes is not something i expected (or, tbh really even wanted) to see on my tl, but as far as i can tell she was restricted to a ridiculous level by the conservatorship so i reckon let her have this”

“my girl deserve the world. they took so many years from her life. she is human ♥

A search for earlier iterations turned up a message board thread, “Article: ‘Judge Rules That Britney Spears Is Allowed to Commit Crimes.'” In the original poster’s post, a “hidden content” section read:

It’s obviously a joke but no idea what the **** is that article

A Google search for “Judge Rules That Britney Spears Is Allowed to Commit Crimes” in fact only turned up the above-linked forum thread. Moving the quotes to surround only “Judge Rules” and “Britney Spears” returned what was likely the template for the tweet’s headline:

judge rules that britney spears is allowed to commit crimes

In the center was a New York Times article with the headline, “Judge Rules to End Britney Spears’s Conservatorship.” Clicking through led to an article (with another headline: “Judge Ends Conservatorship Overseeing Britney Spears’s Life and Finances.”)

A tweet featuring what looked like a New York Times headline reading “Judge Rules That Britney Spears is Allowed to Commit Crimes” spread virally on and off Twitter. Context for the meme was a recent ruling ending Spears’ years-long conservatorship after a lengthy, often very public legal battle, and the tweet’s “Honestly good for her” reflected widespread public sentiment around the decision. That humorous riff on a real headline was later decoupled from its source, spreading on Facebook with even less context.

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‘Judge Rules That Britney Spears is Allowed to Commit Crimes’