The footage was edited to make it seem like Joe Biden was endorsing Donald Trump's re-election

By Claudia Harmata
March 09, 2020 04:36 PM
Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty; Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Twitter used its new “manipulated media” label for the first time on Sunday, flagging a deceptively edited video of former Vice President Joe Biden that was retweeted by President Donald Trump.

The video — which was originally shared by the White House social media director, Dan Scavino — showed Biden speaking while campaigning in Missouri on Saturday.

But the clip edited out the latter portion of what Biden was saying, to make it appear as if the Democratic candidate was endorsing Trump for re-election.

In the edited version shared by Scavino, Biden stumbles over part of his speech before he says, “Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump …” — and then the footage abruptly ends, cutting off the second part of his sentence, according to multiple news outlets.

During his speech, Biden actually said: “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,” according to the BBC and The Washington Post.

Hours after the tweet had been shared, Twitter applied their “manipulated media” label to Scavino’s post, which has amassed over 6 million views and some 80,000 retweets as of Monday afternoon.

Scavino slammed the company for the label in subsequent tweets, claiming that the video “was NOT manipulated.”

He retweeted several arguments against Twitter’s label, including one that said Twitter was “setting such a dangerous precedent.”

He also shared another tweet by conservative Benny Johnson, who wrote, “This video was simply shortened. This means every single clip on Twitter is ‘Manipulated.’ ”

This is the first time Twitter used the label, which is part of a new policy the company announced last month to monitor edited and so-called “deepfake,” or fabricated, videos that often spread misinformation.

Per the new policy, the company said it will apply the label to “content has been substantially edited in a manner that fundamentally alters its composition, sequence, timing, or framing.”

Their first test was not without some glitches. Many reported not being able to see the label on the Biden video when they looked up the tweet.

Others were also unsatisfied with how long it took for Twitter to apply the label. The Post reported that the company didn’t flag the footage until 5 p.m. on Sunday, about 18 hours after Scavino shared it.

By then, his tweet had nearly 5 million views and 21,000 retweets.

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Facebook was also reportedly late to flag the video on its platform, facing pressure from the Biden campaign to do so.

“Facebook’s malfeasance when it comes to trafficking in blatantly false information is a national crisis in this respect,” Greg Schultz, Biden’s campaign manager, said in a statement, according to the Post.

“It is also an unconscionable act of putting profit above not just our country, but every country,” Schultz added. “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.”

The company eventually added a “partly false” label to the video.

“Fact-checkers rated this video as partly false, so we are reducing its distribution and showing warning labels with more context for people who see it, try to share it, or already have,” Facebook spokeswoman Brittany Uter told the Post. “As we announced last year, the same applies if a politician shares the video if it was otherwise fact-checked when shared by others on Facebook.”