Twitter Pulls Down Trump Campaign Video About George Floyd’s Death Over Copyright-Infringement Claim

Donald Trump
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A video posted by Donald Trump’s 2020 election campaign — decrying civil unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd — was removed Thursday by Twitter, citing a copyright-infringement claim.

A June 3 tweet by the @TeamTrump account with the video now displays the message: “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.” Twitter confirmed it received a DMCA takedown request from the owner of one of the images included in the video but the company did not specify who that was.

The video, titled “Healing, Not Hatred,” currently remains available on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. [UPDATE: Facebook removed the videos from both Facebook and Instagram later Friday after it also received a DMCA complaint.]

The 3:45-minute video comprises a clip of a Trump speech in which he says Floyd’s death was a “grave tragedy” that “should never have happened.” The campaign video includes numerous images and video clips, showing memorials to Floyd and crowds of protesters, as well as rioters committing acts of vandalism. “The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists,” Trump says.

It’s not the first time Twitter has removed Trump videos over copyright complaints: The social network took down the president’s video that sampled Nickelback’s 2005 “Photograph” in October 2019 pursuant to a takedown request by Warner Music Group. And earlier last year, Twitter pulled down a Trump 2020 campaign video that used parts of the score for the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Trump on Friday evening posted a link to an article characterizing his campaign’s copyright-infringing video as “showing empathy for peaceful protesters,” and the president accused Twitter of “fighting hard for the Radical Left Democrats. A one sided battle. Illegal. Section 230!”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to Trump, “Not true and not illegal. This was pulled because we got a DMCA complaint from copyright holder.”

Separately, the Trump campaign on Thursday deleted a YouTube video featuring the two NASA astronauts who piloted last week’s SpaceX test flight, evidently because it violated the space agency’s advertising rules. The “Make Space Great Again” video showed the astronauts’ families, drawing a complaint from retired astronaut Karen Nyberg (wife of Doug Hurley, one of the SpaceX mission members) who said she and her son were pictured “in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent.” The Trump 2020 ad also prompted a Change.org petition denouncing the exploitation of the spaceflight for “political showmanship.”

Regarding Twitter’s compliance with U.S. copyright law in taking down the Trump video, a campaign spokesman told The Hill, “This incident is yet another reminder that Twitter is making up the rules as they go along.” He claimed that Twitter “has repeatedly failed to explain why their rules seem to only apply to the Trump campaign but not to others. Censoring out the president’s important message of unity around the George Floyd protests is an unfortunate escalation of this double standard.”

Twitter increasingly has been in Trump’s crosshairs after the social network last week applied fact-check labels to his inaccurate tweets about mail-in voting — and then hid another Trump tweet suggesting Minneapolis protesters would be shot. Trump, upset over Twitter’s fact-checking action, issued an executive order aiming to remove Twitter’s legal protections for speech on its platform. That prompted a lawsuit from a tech policy organization charging that Trump’s order violates the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg faces a backlash from employees for deciding to take no action on the same Trump posts. This week, Snap said it would no longer promote Trump’s Snapchat posts, with the company citing his rhetoric “incit[ing] racial violence and injustice.”

Twitter’s current policies carve out an exemption for political figures like Trump, under which tweets that would be violations for regular users may be left up if the company considers them to be in the “public interest.” Twitter amended that a year ago, saying that tweets by political figures that violate its regular policies would be displayed with a warning notice in front of tweets.

The first time Twitter applied that to one of Trump’s tweets was on the May 29 post in which the president said about protests in Minneapolis, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”