Get ready for Twitter's "manipulated media" tag

The day may come when we have a story about Twitter that involves some good news (such as finally giving us an edit button), but today is not that day. There was a video of Joe Biden making the rounds on social media recently and it attracted a lot of attention when the President retweeted it. It was a clip of Biden saying “We cannot win this re-election, excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump.” The video was obviously cut short and lacking in context since Biden actually went on to say “if, in fact, we get engaged in this circular firing squad here.”

That was enough to prompt Twitter to slap a brand new tag on posts where the video appeared. It’s their “manipulated media” marker. Rather than identifying something as completely “fake,” this designation is apparently intended to highlight deceptive, out of context editing. As the saying goes, what could possibly go wrong? (Politico)

Twitter applied its new “manipulated media“ label for the first time Sunday on an edited video of Joe Biden that a White House official posted and that President Donald Trump retweeted…

Twitter’s new policy, which went into effect on Thursday, defines manipulated posts as any photo, video or audio that has been “significantly altered or fabricated.” The company will remove the media if it is found likely to “cause serious harm,” and, regardless, at least label tweets as erroneous or doctored. In some cases, Twitter will also offer additional context about the video.

The policy coincides with a recent rise of doctored videos of politicians: There was the edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, making her seem as though she was drunkenly slurring words. And there was a different Biden clip edited to suggest he made a racist comment.

These are now the new rules of the road. So all of you lying, dog-faced pony soldiers had best mind your Ps and Qs when posting any videos of the Democratic candidates.

We can all see how this is going to play out, right? I don’t care how fancy their algorithms have become at this point. There is absolutely no way that any automated system will be able to screen images, video or audio files and determine whether or not they have been altered inappropriately (as opposed to being brightened for clarity or something). And there’s absolutely zero chance that an algorithm can make a judgment call to determine if a clip has been deceptively edited. That would require actual, sentient artificial intelligence.

So that means that the selection of media that deserving the “manipulated” tag will be left up to actual human beings. And given that Twitter doesn’t have enough employees to screen the roughly half-billion tweets per day that litter the internet, there will have to be some sort of selection mechanism in place. If you can get enough people to report a particular tweet as containing “manipulated” media, you’ll be able to get them to take a look at it, but the vast majority of equally deceptive tweets will never be examined.

Of course, this also means that “deceptive” is in the eye of the beholder. A real human being who almost certainly carries their own political biases and opinions will be making those decisions. And if they just happen to be of the highly liberal persuasion, whose videos do you think will most often be in for scrutiny and possible tagging? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Twitter has been caught putting their thumb on the political scale so many times now that I’ve pretty much lost count. Any expectation that this new “manipulated” tag will be applied across the board in a non-partisan fashion is little more than a pipe dream. But if we must find one thing to say on the positive side, I suppose it’s better than just banning (or shadow banning) the accounts of those posting the questionable content. But not a whole lot better.

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