On Sunday, Twitter applied a “manipulated media” label to a tweet that includes a video of Joe Biden posted by Trump’s head of social media — and retweeted by the president — that was deceptively truncated to make it seem as if Biden, who is campaigning to be the Democratic presidential nominee, had admitted Trump’s re-election was inevitable.
It’s the first time Twitter has used the tag under its new policy to address “synthetic and manipulated media” that is “likely to cause harm,” which went into effect March 5. Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign lashed out at Facebook for not putting a similar label on the same deceptive video that Trump shared on the world’s largest social media platform.
The tweet in question included a video clip from Biden’s campaign speech in Saint Louis, Mo., on Saturday and came from the account of White House director of social media Dan Scavino. “Sleepy Joe in St. Louis, Missouri today: ‘We can only re-elect @realDonaldTrump.’ #KAG2020LandslideVictory,” Scavino said in the post, which was retweeted by Trump’s account.
In the White House’s edited version of the video, which had been viewed more than 5.9 million times as of early Monday, Biden urges Democrats to end negative attacks on candidates because otherwise “we cannot win this re-election. Excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump.” Twitter users quickly pointed out Biden’s full comment actually was, “Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s got to be a positive campaign, so join us.”
Twitter attached the “manipulated media” warning to Scavino’s tweet on Sunday. The label was visible only in users’ timelines and not if the tweet was viewed by clicking through to view it. Twitter was working on a fix to append the tag in all views, a spokeswoman confirmed to Variety.
Under Twitter’s “Synthetic and manipulated media policy,” media that is “deceptively altered or fabricated” may include a warning label, the company says. Twitter says it also considers “whether the context in which media are shared could result in confusion or misunderstanding or suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people about the nature or origin of the content, for example by falsely claiming that it depicts reality.”
Scavino insisted in a follow-up tweet Sunday night that “the video was NOT manipulated.” But he failed to address critics who pointed out that the post clearly falls under Twitter’s policy to add warning labels to media shared in a way that is intended to deceive people.
On Sunday, Biden’s campaign criticized Facebook for leaving up posts by Scavino and Trump of the same deceptively edited video without any caveats. “Facebook won’t say it, but it is apparent to all who have examined their conduct and policies: they care first and foremost about money and, to that end, are willing to serve as one of the world’s most effective mediums for the spread of vile lies,” Greg Schultz, Biden’s campaign manager, said in a statement to media.
Separately, Twitter grants special exemptions to Donald Trump and other political figures for tweets that would be banned for regular users (e.g., violating policies against bullying or violent speech), in the event the company deems those posts in the “public interest.” According to Twitter, tweets that fall under such a designation will be displayed with a warning notice in front of tweets (requiring users to click through to view the post).
(Pictured above: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Kansas City, Mo., on March 7)