WASHINGTON – Under a new policy that took effect last week, Twitter labeled a video of former Vice President Joe Biden “manipulated media,” marking the first time it had applied the advisory label.
Facebook, on the other hand, declined to do anything about the video, drawing an angry response from the Biden campaign.
In the 13-second video clip, which was shared by White House Media Director Dan Scavino in a tweet that was retweeted by President Donald Trump, Biden is shown fumbling for his words during a campaign rally in Kansas City on Saturday while denouncing negative campaigning in the Democratic primary race.
“Turn this primary from a campaign that’s about negative attacks into one about what we’re for, because we cannot reelect, we cannot win this reelection. Excuse me, we can only reelect Donald Trump,” he says before the clip cuts off.
But the clip does not contain the full sentence.
“We can only reelect 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,” Biden says in his full remarks.
Trump retweeted two posts featuring the clip. One from Scavino, which read “We can only re-elect @realDonaldTrump,” and the other from Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.
“I finally agree with Joe Biden on something! He’s exactly right – If we don’t want 4 years of this, we can only re-elect @realDonaldTrump. RT!” read Kirk’s post.
A Twitter moment under the heading “Video of Joe Biden endorsing Trump is edited” said a “video circulated that appeared to show Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calling to re-elect Trump.”
“Journalists from The New York Times, CNN and Politico pointed out that the clip is edited in a misleading way,” the moment said.
Twitter’s “synthetic and manipulated media policy” took effect on March 5. It forbids “synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm” and says it may “label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.”
In the criteria for determining whether something is “deceptively altered or fabricated,” Twitter says “subtler forms” can include “isolative editing, omission of context or presentation with false context.” Twitter said the response to those types of deception will be determined on a “case-by-case basis.”
More “significant forms of alteration” include “wholly synthetic audio or video” – often referred to as “deepfakes” – or content that has been doctored (spliced and reordered, slowed down) to change its meaning.”
The label was not visible on the retweets of the video that appeared in Trump’s Twitter timeline as of Monday, however.
Twitter told USA TODAY that the label is not “currently showing up in Tweet detail due to a technical error, but is visible in the timeline. We’re working on a fix.”
A video shared by the social media platform outlines how the “manipulated media” label is supposed to work.
Scavino pushed back on Twitter’s decision to label the video.
“The video was NOT manipulated,” he said in a tweet.
“#SleepyJoe is such a mess that @Twitter thinks this video was manipulated. Sorry! He actually said this. Not manipulated. They are trying to drag Joe across the finish line,” tweeted Gary Cody, the Trump campaign’s digital director.
Facebook, which also has adopted a policy aimed at addressing manipulated media, left the video untouched. That company’s policy “does not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words.”
Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz blasted Facebook for the policy, which he said ignores its responsibility to address “increasingly rampant disinformation.”
“Facebook’s malfeasance when it comes to trafficking in blatantly false information is a national crisis in this respect,” Schultz said in a statement.
“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,” he said. “Their unethical behavior is not acceptable, and it must change.”
Disinformation on social media has been a growing concern since the 2016 election. Former special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russian intelligence operatives conducted “a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States” ahead of that election.
“The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton,” Mueller found.
And experts have repeatedly warned that Russia and other actors will use social media to interfere in the 2020 election.
Tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter have struggled to find responses to the disinformation that balance the concerns for the public good, their users’ concerns and their companies’ profit margins.
And their task has become more difficult as the quality of deceptive video has improved.
Deceptively edited videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing to slur her words and of Biden appearing to make racist remarks were widely shared on social media, prompting outcries from Democrats demanding action to combat the spread of such content.
Contributing: Jessica Guynn
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