Trump Tweets Fake CNN Clip of ‘Racist Baby,’ Twitter Labels It ‘Manipulated Media’

The president keeps breaking rules on his favorite social media platform

Trump keeps violating Twitter rules. Getty Images, Twitter
Headshot of Scott Nover

Twitter labeled one of President Donald Trump’s tweets as “manipulated media” on Thursday evening, two hours after he posted it. On Friday afternoon, Twitter and Facebook both removed the video for copyright infringement.

The offending tweet featured a doctored video of a white child chasing a Black child with the caption “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.” It was edited with a CNN logo and a fake chyron to imply that journalists are sowing racial division in the country. “America is not the problem. Fake news is,” it says.

CNN’s communications team responded to Trump in its own tweet after Twitter labeled the video, urging the president to “be better.”

“CNN did cover this story—exactly as it happened,” the company wrote. “Just as we reported your positions on race (and poll numbers). We’ll continue working with facts rather than tweeting fake videos that exploit innocent children.”

In the tweet, CNN linked to its actual story from September 2019 with the footage Trump shared. The piece was titled, “These two toddlers are showing us what real-life besties look like.”

The fake video appears to be made by Carpe Donktum, a pro-Trump meme maker who was previously suspended by Twitter for copyright infringement.

A Twitter spokesperson told Adweek the tweet was labeled “per our synthetic and manipulated media policy to give people more context” and pointed to its written policy, which was first introduced in February.

This is not the first time Twitter has dinged the Trump apparatus for violating the policy. In March, Twitter labeled a tweet by White House social media tsar Dan Scavino of a manipulated video that made it seem like former Vice President Joe Biden was endorsing Trump.

Twitter and Facebook were criticized last year for allowing a deepfake video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to spread, which deceptively showed Pelosi slurring her words. Facebook introduced its own deepfake and manipulated media ban in January ahead of Twitter’s decision.

The same “racist baby” video was also posted to Facebook, but the company did not take action for violating the manipulated media policy. Instead, the company removed the video because it violated a copyright claim. Jukin Media, which represents the owner of the original viral video, said Trump’s “unauthorized usage of the content is a clear example of copyright infringement.”

“Separately, in no way do we support or condone the manipulated video or the message it conveys,” a spokesperson for the company said. Twitter removed the video shortly after Facebook did late Friday afternoon.

This is the fourth time Twitter took action over Trump’s tweets in recent weeks, including labeling one of his tweets about mail-in ballots as misleading, restricting another that urged shooting protesters for “glorifying violence,” and event taking down a video Trump tweeted for separate copyright infringement.

Twitter’s decisions to hold Trump to its rules, which have long governed all users, set a new precedent for the company and signifies a philosophical divergence from Facebook, which left up the post about shooting protesters and has refused to fact-check political ads.

Trump has railed against Twitter because of its actions, incorrectly claiming that its decisions violate his free speech. He also signed an executive order aimed at weakening the liability protections that online social platforms are granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which he has little power to change unilaterally.

Ahead of the November elections, Trump has shown he is willing to push the boundaries of acceptable speech online. Twitter, at least, seems ready to hold him to the rules of play.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Facebook removed the video on Friday afternoon for copyright infringement.

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.