Twitter flags Republican leader’s video as ‘manipulated’ for altering disabled activist’s words

Twitter flagged an inflammatory video by House Republican Whip Steve Scalise on Sunday for altering footage of a conversation between progressive activist Ady Barkan and Joe Biden. The video is now labeled as “manipulated media” in a tweet from Scalise, though remains online.

The inflammatory video pulls in out-of-context quotes from a number of Democrats and activists, but appears to have crossed a line by altering Barkan’s words from a portion of the conversation about policing reform. Barkan, who has ALS, speaks with an assistive eye-tracking device.

“These are not my words. I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts,” Barkan tweeted in response, adding “…You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

In the video excerpt, taken from a longer conversation about policing and social services, Barkan appears to say “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” In reality, Barkan interrupted Biden during the conversation to ask “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”

In the video, Barkan’s altered sentence is followed by a dramatic black background stamped with the words “No police. Mob rule. Total chaos. Coming to a town near you?” Those ominous warnings are followed by a logo for Scalise’s reelection campaign.

The addition of the two words, falsely rendered in Barkan’s voice, don’t significantly change the meaning of his question, but the edit still crossed a line. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the tweet violated the company’s policy for “synthetic and manipulated media,” though did not specify which part of the video broke the rules.

The synthetic and manipulated media policy states that Twitter “may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.” In the policy, Twitter explains specifically that “new video frames, overdubbed audio” and other edits count as deceptive and significant manipulation.

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