Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Twitter and Donald Trump.
Twitter on Thursday evening took the step of appending a warning label to one of President Trump’s tweets after the company determined it violated its policies on manipulated media.
The president tweeted a doctored version of a popular video that went viral in 2019, which showed two toddlers, one black and one white, hugging. In the version Trump shared, the video has been edited with ominous music and a fake CNN headline that says, “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.”
“Racist baby probably a Trump voter,” the headline then says in a subsequent screen.
The video then cuts to the original clip of the children hugging, and then cuts to the message “America is not the problem. Fake news is.”
The label is the latest flash point in an increasingly contentious debate over tech companies’ responsibility to police falsehoods and hoaxes spread by politicians on their platforms. It could worsen an already tense relationship between Silicon Valley and Trump, who has escalated his claims in recent weeks that social media titans are biased against conservatives.
Trump has criticized the companies particularly Twitter for censoring him. Meanwhile, social media has become a major way he communicates with constituents, with more than 82 million followers on Twitter alone and missives that come day and night.
The video had received roughly 3.8 million views and more than 75,000 retweets at the time of Twitter’s label.
This is only the third time that the company has announced that it would take action against one of the president’s tweets. Twitter has previously appended labels to a pair of Trump’s tweets that made misleading claims about mail-in ballots, as well as another post that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” for violating its terms on violence.
Twitter’s decision to label the tweets is the culmination of a series of quiet and incremental processes intended to dismantle a long-standing exception that the social media industry has made for the speech of politicians. Social media companies are under increased pressure to moderate content on their websites especially from the Oval Office as concerns mount about misinformation amid the coronavirus pandemic and the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Twitter implemented its manipulated media policy on March 5 to stem the spread of doctored photos and videos that could mislead users. Democrats ratcheted up pressure on companies to address the issue after videos edited to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appear drunk went viral on multiple social networks.