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As images and videos depicting President Trump and his political rivals in Congress come under increasing scrutiny by the likes of BuzzFeed and CNN, Twitter has announced its latest effort: cracking down on “manipulated photos or videos that can cause people harm.” In other words, the platform will be tackling political memes it determines to be harmful.
Do memes poking fun at Joe Biden’s bleeding eyes, his confused demeanour, and concerning predilection towards non-consensual touching constitute as harm—particularly if they only affect his reputation as a serious Democratic candidate for President? Perhaps so. To limit this so-called “harm,” Twitter revealed today that it is introducing a new rule and a label to address and “give people more context” around tweets the platform determines requires a closer look.
According to Twitter, which released a video on the matter, altered videos will be labelled as “manipulated media.” Users are encouraged to tap the label, which will be present beneath an edited video or image, “to view info from reputable sources.” One can assume that Fox News, the Daily Caller and other conservative and independent outlets will not be given the privilege of being “reputable,” which is code for the progressive media. As an example, the platform shows how users will be given an “inside look” at how the video has been altered with details on the nature of the edits.
It brings to mind CNN’s investigation into a meme produced by a Reddit user that depicted CNN as Vince McMahon being beaten down by President Trump in a wrestling match. The video, which was shared by the President himself, prompted the cable news organization to dig into the user’s private identity—and even threatened to expose him unless he apologized for producing the meme. As the New York Times reported, “CNN declined to name the user, but said, somewhat mysteriously, that it ‘reserves the right’ to publish his identity in the future if he continued to create offensive content.”
The video was very much in line with the content regularly produced by pro-Trump Twitter users like Carpe Donktum, who BuzzFeed News referred to as “Trump’s favourite meme maker.” For no other discernible reason than to silence him, the news organization doxed the meme maker for his efforts—to no avail. He continues to produce viral videos and has since launched Meme World, a conglomerate of political meme producers.
On a less meme-related note, a video uploaded by Paul Joseph Watson that depicted CNN’s Jim Acosta during his sensationalized physical altercation (if you want to call it that) with a White House staffer became the subject of national conversation after it was shared by the White House’s Sarah Sanders. Members of the press accused Watson of altering the video, speeding it up and adding several frames, per the Wall Street Journal. Given that the video itself was ripped from a livestream and re-encoded for Twitter, it remains to be determined if any of the supposed alterations were deliberate. Whatever the case, it was blown out of proportion.
Twitter claims that this new feature is part of an effort to make the platform “a safer place for conversations.” Well, given their Pravda-like approach to the issue, Twitter will most certainly be less safe for memes and those who make them.