With the first implementation of a new policy that purports to promote transparency in labeling videos that have been edited in ways that could be deceptive or misleading, Twitter couldn’t have succeeded better in making transparent its own liberal bias.
Last weekend the social media platform marked a video posted by White House social media director Dan Scavino, and retweeted by President Trump, as “manipulated media.” The label had never before been used, although Twitter warned that it was coming.
The video showed a clip of a speech by Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden in his own stumbling words, which were cropped to make it appear he was endorsing Trump. The Democratic National Committee called attention to Twitter that the video was “manipulated,” according to The Daily Beast, and Twitter immediately slapped the label on it.
“This is an example of our ongoing disinformation work, and the same thing that we do for every campaign,” a DNC official said.
In the Scavino-posted video, Biden says in clip that is cut off after 13 seconds, “We can only reelect Donald Trump.” Omitted immediately following is Biden saying, “Excuse me. 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.”
Sleepy Joe?in St. Louis, Missouri today:
— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) March 8, 2020
Since no one in their right minds believes Biden would endorse his opponent, and Trump jocularly retweeted Scavino’s video saying “I agree with Joe!,” the post was an obvious joke. Yet all the political handwringers and pearl clutchers reacted predictably, crusading as enforcers against “misinformation.”
The Trump campaign immediately called out Twitter’s double standard because it has failed to label heavily edited and deceptive videos posted by Biden’s campaign as similarly “manipulated.”
There are plenty of examples. An egregious one – far worse than Scavino’s obvious joke-post – was tweeted only ten days ago by the Biden campaign and featured several quick-cutting clips of Trump statements taken out of context. They perpetuate the lies that the president has called the coronavirus a “hoax,” and that he said racists who demonstrated in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 were “very fine people.” And in a close parallel to what Scavino did with the Biden clip, the manipulated video of Trump also includes him saying in a 2016 clip that “the American Dream is dead,” but omits what he said immediately after: “but if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.”
The Trump campaign, upon learning its video of Biden had been labeled “manipulated,” immediately sent a letter to Twitter demanding an explanation, or at least equal treatment.
“It appears that many people employed by Big Tech corporations in Silicon Valley are assisting the Biden campaign by instituting a special ‘Biden protection rule’ that effectively censors and silences legitimate political speech Biden’s campaign and its supporters do not like,” wrote Michael Glassner, COO of the Trump campaign.
“In order for American elections to remain free and fair, it is critical that the Biden campaign be held to the same standard it is demanding apply to others,” he added. “Therefore, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., is formally requesting that Twitter apply its new ‘manipulated media’ label to a doctored and deceptively edited video tweeted by the Biden campaign less than a week ago. This Biden campaign video manipulates audio and video of President Trump in order to mislead Americans and give a false impression.”
Twitter told media outlets that it received Glassner’s letter and plans to respond, but so far there’s just been crickets.
The clash opens a slightly different front in the social media wars between campaigns. In famously diverging decisions announced late last year, Twitter announced it would accept no campaign advertising for the 2020 cycle, while Facebook said it would and that it would not “fact-check” whether claims made in ads (or paid posts delivered to a large audience) were true or not, instead relying on commenters to set the record straight if necessary. Liberals largely heralded the speech-clampdown approach of Twitter and hated Facebook’s free-speech-leaning decision, while conservatives mostly viewed it the opposite way.
But both platforms still engage in censorship, deleting or limiting messages mostly under the control of left-leaning techies they employ in Silicon Valley.
This week’s brouhaha is censorship of a different form, but clearly the ideological bias behind it is the same as it’s always been.