Twitter put its new misinformation policy to use for (what appears to be) the first time on Sunday. A tweet originated by White House social media director Dan Scavino, and retweeted by Donald Trump, featured an edited video of Joe Biden giving a speech that Twitter tagged as “manipulated media.”
The clip shows Biden appearing to endorse Donald Trump in a statement that was trimmed midsentence.
“We can only re-elect Donald Trump,” Biden says in the video. But that’s of course not what the candidate actually said in his speech, given recently in Kansas City, Missouri. The full quote is: “We can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.”
According to Twitter’s synthetic and manipulated media policy, which was enacted on March 5, users “may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm.”
Twitter added that in most cases, if it has reason to believe media shared in a tweet has been significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated, it will provide additional context on tweets. The content will be labeled as such, people will receive a warning before they share or like the content, visibility of the content will be limited, and there will be a link provided for clarity from resources provided by Twitter Moments.
Twitter added the blue “manipulated media” label 18 hours after Scavino’s original tweet. However, it’s easy to scroll past it, given the text size, the fast-paced nature of how people “read” on social media, and that the tag only shows up in the timeline view, but not in the tweet detail view, so users pulling up the individual tweet won’t see the warning. A spokesperson for Twitter told Bloomberg that it’s working on a fix for the issue. However, Scavino contested Twitter’s claim of manipulation and has not deleted the tweet, which now has a thread that descends predictably into chaos. There are a lot of Trump supporters in the thread who are still arguing the clip’s authenticity.
Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, responded with a statement rebuking Facebook for not taking similar action, as reported by CNN’s Sarah Mucha:
We live in an era of increasingly rampant disinformation, and there are only two ways to address this toxic force that is corroding our democracy: responsibly and in a way that serves the public, or irresponsibly and in a nakedly self-serving manner. Facebook’s malfeasance when it comes to trafficking in blatantly false misinformation is a national crisis in this respect. It is also an unconscionable act of putting profit above not just our country, but every country. 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. That is repugnant, and it should be called out for what it is. Their unethical behavior is not acceptable, and it must change.
Twitter’s ban on faked pictures, video, and other media “deceptively shared” includes sophisticated deepfakes as well as other content that has been edited to “cause harm.”
Time will tell how effective Twitter’s new policy will be, but in a divisive age of opinions and misinformation, the battle against fake news is not going to be easily won.