Apr 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy
What Matters 2020

Biden campaign asks Trump campaign to pull video, testing Twitter

Photos: Mandel Ngan, Win McNamee/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign is calling on President Trump's re-election campaign to pull a "wildly irresponsible" video from Twitter that splices in sound to falsely depict Biden calling the coronavirus a hoax — and they're asking Twitter to remove the ad if the president's campaign won't.

Driving the news: Trump campaign officials are using the video posted today to try to force Twitter to act, or to paint the company as biased, after it declined to pull down a different video from a pro-Biden group that the president's team says deliberately used his own words out of context.

  • The ad to which Trump's team objects says the president refused to take the virus threat seriously and includes audio of him saying "this is their new hoax."
  • Trump campaign officials say that shouldn't be allowed because he was talking about Democrats politicizing the virus, not the reality of the virus itself.

Why it matters: This raises the stakes for the role of social media companies in refereeing questions of free speech versus deep fakes, disinformation and misinformation in the 2020 election.

What they're saying: "This is a wildly irresponsible tactic by the Trump campaign that attempts to draw a bizarre and false equivalence, and is purposefully misleading voters," Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo tells Axios in a statement.

  • "Disinformation and deceptively manipulated media have no place in our public discourse, and must not be tolerated in this campaign," Ducklo said.
  • "Twitter cannot allow their platform to be a mechanism to spread lies and fake media, and if the Trump campaign won't do the right thing, Twitter should remove the video immediately."

The Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, told Axios: “Turnabout is fair play. If the Biden campaign objects to manipulated video, they should take theirs down."

A Trump campaign official who declined to speak on the record told Axios on background that "Twitter has so far effectively instituted a 'Biden protection rule,' refusing to apply their manipulated media label to video and audio of President Trump that every independent fact-checker says is false."

  • The new video to which the Biden campaign is objecting "forces the issue and makes Twitter decide" whether to enforce rules "fairly and equally" or have a policy that's a "partisan sham."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add a comment from the Trump campaign.

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