Twitter and Facebook took action to discredit a viral clip of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden that made it appear as if the politician was endorsing President Donald Trump. Twitter labeled the video as "manipulated media" while Facebook flagged it as "partly false information" after it was fact-checked.
In the 13-second clip, which was shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino and retweeted by Trump on Saturday, Biden says "We can only re-elect Donald Trump" before the video cuts off. The footage came from a speech Biden gave during a rally in Kansas City, Missouri. The full video reveals that Biden said: "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, so join us."
The moves by Facebook and Twitter illustrate where social networks draw the line when it comes to political speech, sparking a debate about whether the companies are taking the right approach to combat misinformation. Democrats have criticized these companies for not pulling down altered videos in the past. Republicans view labeling as a way social networks are suppressing conservative speech, an allegation that these companies have repeatedly denied.
Even though Twitter added a "manipulated media" label to Scavino's tweet on Sunday, the video can still be watched. The company confirmed to CNET that the tweet violated its "synthetic and manipulated media policy," which went into effect Thursday. It's the first time Twitter has used the label and a spokeswoman said it's been applied to other versions of the Biden video.
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You might not be able to see the label because it's only showing up in timelines and not in the detailed view of the tweet. Twitter said it's working on a fix. The Twitter video had 6.5 million views as of Monday afternoon.
The social network usually doesn't send direct speech from politicians to fact-checkers. Even though the video was shared by Trump, it's not considered direct speech because it's a clip from someone else.
"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," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. "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."
Facebook also has rules against manipulated media, but that policy doesn't apply to videos that have been edited solely to omit words.
The decision is in line with how Facebook handled a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that was doctored to make it seem as if she were slurring her words. The company also provided information from fact-checkers but didn't pull the video down.
However, Reuters reported that Facebook's label didn't come quickly enough for the Biden campaign. Before it was applied, the video had more than 1 million views. Biden's campaign manager, Greg Schultz, slammed the social network for allowing "vile lies" to spread.
"Facebook's malfeasance when it comes to trafficking in blatantly false information is a national crisis," Schultz said in a statement. He accused the social network of caring more about money than combating disinformation.
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment. Scavino tweeted that the "video was NOT manipulated." He also retweeted a comment from Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, who criticized the labeling.
"We're seeing an intentional and coordinated effort by established gatekeepers to equate political speech they don't like with the entirely separate categories of doctored deep fakes, illegal content, and deceptive cheap fakes," Carr tweeted.
A Twitter spokeswoman said there's no way to appeal the use of the "manipulated media" label at this time. Outside of the Biden video, other media on Twitter have not been labeled yet.
This isn't the first time Twitter's and Facebook's rules have been put to the test. In January, an edited video of Biden that falsely suggests he made racist remarks went viral on Twitter before its new policy went into effect.