Twitter declines Trump campaign request to tag Dem video as ‘manipulated media’

Twitter on Thursday denied a request by President Trump’s campaign to put a “manipulated media” warning tag on content spread by Democrats under the social media giant’s new policy aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation.

According to emails reviewed by The Hill, the Trump campaign flagged new content on Twitter that it said had been deceptively edited to make it seem like the president had called the coronavirus a “hoax.”

At issue is a new video that has been viewed millions of times featuring audio of Trump saying: “The coronavirus, this is their new hoax.”

The Washington Post’s fact checkers gave Four Pinocchios to a previous advertisement from former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign using the same audio.

Trump’s full quote was: “Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’, ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ They have no clue, they don’t have any clue … And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing.”

The Post determined that Trump was talking about Democratic efforts to politicize the virus, rather than the virus itself.

“The full quote shows Trump is criticizing Democratic talking points and the media’s coverage of his administration’s response to coronavirus,” the Post wrote. “He never says that the virus itself is a hoax, and although the Biden camp included the word ‘their,’ the edit does not make clear to whom or what Trump is referring.”

Other fact checkers, including Snopes, Politifact and came to the same conclusion.

The Trump campaign flagged the new content for Twitter on Wednesday, but the social media company responded on Thursday to say that the ad did not violate its manipulated media policy, according to internal emails reviewed by The Hill.

“Our site integrity team has reviewed against the Synthetic and Manipulated Media Policy and determined it does not qualify for a label at this time,” the email said.

Twitter had previously declined to remove the Biden ad, saying it was released on March 3, two days before it implemented its new media manipulation policy. The company has said it is not applying the policy retroactively. 

The Trump campaign is livid over what it views as Twitter’s haphazard and inscrutable application of the new standards.

“This is indisputable evidence that Twitter has one rule for the Trump campaign and another rule for Democrats,” said Trump campaign spokesman Matt Wolking. “Twitter refused to apply its manipulated media label to a Biden campaign video that the Washington Post Fact Checker gave 4 Pinocchios for deceptive editing, and now Twitter is refusing to label a viral video that doctors audio of President Trump to spread misinformation about the coronavirus. Twitter’s political bias is obvious and it is actively choosing to protect Joe Biden.”

Twitter had previously deemed a Trump campaign video as manipulated for showing footage of a speech Biden delivered in Missouri earlier this month.

The social media company determined that the Trump campaign video did not include Biden’s full remarks and therefore had been taken out of context.

“We can only reelect Donald Trump,” Biden says in the Trump campaign video.

In a full clip of the moment, Biden says, “We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.”

Following that encounter, the Trump campaign sent a letter to Twitter accusing the company of instituting a “Biden protection rule” that effectively “censors and silences legitimate political speech Biden’s campaign and its supporters do not like.”

“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,” wrote Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s chief operating officer.

The controversy comes as Twitter announced on Wednesday that it would expand its efforts to stamp out misinformation around the coronavirus. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
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