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Republican leader shares faked video of disabled activist on Twitter

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A Sunday tweet from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) showing a video of activist Ady Barkan got a “manipulated media” label from Twitter. Barkan has ALS and speaks through voice assistance.

In the video, a conversation between Barkan and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Barkan asks “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” The version Scalise tweeted edits in the words “for police,” to the end of the question, words which Barkan says in a different context earlier in the video.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed in an email to The Verge that the tweet was labeled “based on our Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy.” As of 10:45PM ET Sunday, the tweet with the manipulated video appears to have been deleted from Scalise’s account.

The video was first noticed by Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel.

In the original video, Barkan asks Biden about what he thinks could be done about police violence. “We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to the police and redirect some of the funding for police into mental health counseling, and affordable housing,” he says. Later in the clip, he asks “do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” to which Biden responds, “yes.”

The edited version of the clip in Scalise’s tweet, adding the words “for police,” at the end of that question, makes it appear that Barkan is asking Biden to defund police completely, a position Biden has said he does not support.

Scalise spokesperson Lauren Fine said in an email to The Verge on Sunday that it was clear in the video that Barkan was asking if Biden was open to redirecting funding away from police.

“Obviously, for a one-minute Twitter video featuring several short clips, we condensed that to the essence of what he was asking, as is common practice for clips run on TV and social media, no matter the speaker; we paired the police portion with Barkan’s final question for clarity because we couldn’t include an entire 3-mintue clip in a one minute montage,” Fine said. “We believe Biden’s position and answer is clear regardless: when asked twice, he says “yes” he is open to redirecting funding away from the police, and that is clear in our video.”

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Barkan asked Scalise to take the video down. “These are not my words. I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts,” Barkan tweeted. “You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

Joe Biden echoed the sentiment in a tweet Sunday night. “This video is doctored — and a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology,” Biden said. “It should be removed. Now.”

Late Sunday night, Scalise tweeted that he would “honor the request of Ady Barkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video.”

A Twitter spokesperson did not elaborate on what specifically in Scalise’s tweet warranted the “manipulated” tag. But if the video was doctored, it violates the social media platform’s policy, which states it’s “most likely to take action … on more significant forms of alteration, such as wholly synthetic audio or video or content that has been doctored (spliced and reordered, slowed down) to change its meaning.”

Social media platforms have tried, with varying degrees of success, to moderate falsified content including “deepfake” videos. Twitter’s policy, for instance, won’t apply to media that has been “edited in ways that do not fundamentally alter their meaning,” such as color-corrected video or retouched photos.

The House of Representatives Ethics Committee announced earlier this year that members who share “deep fakes or other audio-visual distortions intended to mislead the public” could be in violation of the House’s Code of Official Conduct. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeted Sunday that Scalise “must take down the doctored video and apologize immediately.”

Scalise’s tweet appeared to have limited engagement as of Sunday afternoon, with no retweets showing in the counter at the bottom of the tweet. In response to an inquiry from The Verge, a Twitter spokesperson pointed to its manipulated media policy, which states that among other actions, Twitter may reduce a tweet’s visibility, which prevents it from being recommended.

Twitter has previously labeled several of President Trump’s tweets with the “manipulated media” tag, including a June tweet that edited video of two children playing to appear that one was chasing the other, and to mimic CNN’s chryon format to make it look like the clip ran on the cable network (it did not).

UPDATE August 30th 2:45PM ET Added comment from Scalise spokesperson.

UPDATE August 30th 7:37PM ET: Added statement from Ady Barkan.

UPDATE August 30th 8:28PM ET: Added statement from Joe Biden.

UPDATE August 30th 11:05PM ET: Added new comment from Scalise and information that the original tweet appears to be deleted, and comment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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Trump gives TikTok a new deadline: 90 days instead of 45

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President Trump issued an executive order Friday giving ByteDance 90 days to either sell or spin off its TikTok business in the US.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump wrote in the order, which references national security concerns. ByteDance is based in China, and the Trump administration has recently suggested that the company could share information about Americans with the Chinese government. The company has denied it does so.

The move gives TikTok a bit of a reprieve from Trump’s August 6th order that would have blocked all US transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent corporation, due to what the president referred to as an effort to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.” Originally, TikTok had a September 20th deadline; now, it has until November 12th.

The latest executive order requires ByteDance to destroy any TikTok data from US users, and report to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States once all the data has been destroyed. ByteDance must also destroy any data collected from TikTok precursor app Musical.ly, which the company bought in 2017. The original order with the 45-day deadline didn’t include those requirements.

“As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” ByteDance said in an email statement to The Verge on Friday. “We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”

Microsoft has been in talks to acquire TikTok — though co-founder Bill Gates has since called the potential deal a “poisoned chalice” — and reports last week suggested Twitter also was interested. It’s not clear how Friday’s executive order affects a potential sale, but Microsoft said it expected to complete the discussions “no later than September 15th, 2020.” Theoretically, Trump’s original timeline would have been enough for Microsoft, so we’re curious if anything has changed.

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Trump will prohibit transactions with Bytedance beginning September 20 in apparent TikTok ban

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President Trump has signed a new executive order which will block all transactions with Bytedance, TikTok’s parent corporation, in an effort to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.” It isn’t effectively immediately, but has a 45 day deadline.

“The spread [of apps controlled by the Chinese government] continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the order reads. “The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.”

A parallel order banned transactions with WeChat, a popular texting app in China that maintains a small user base in the US.

The move comes after months of escalating tensions, which saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others at the White House warn that TikTok presented a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. On Friday, President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was preparing to sign some sort of order banning the app.

Those efforts have been complicated by discussions of a potential sale to Microsoft. On Sunday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that he had spoken with President Trump about potentially acquiring the portions of TikTok based in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, although huge portions of the deal remain in flux. The company also cautioned that discussions were still tentative and “there can be no assurance that a transaction which involves Microsoft will proceed.”

Microsoft pledged to conclude discussions by September 15th, a date that has been echoed by President Trump. Trump’s new order is set to take effect 45 days after its release or September 20th — just after the deadline set for negotiations in the Microsoft deal.

In both orders, the president names the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as authority for the move, as well as the National Emergencies Act — effectively naming TikTok’s continued operation within the United States as a national emergency. Such a move is highly unusual, and will likely be subject to a legal challenge.

The executive branch has the power to levy sanctions against individuals and corporations by placing them on the “entity list,” as the US did against Huawei and ZTE last year. But such sanctions are typically put in place by the Commerce Department rather than the White House, and subject to a specific rule-making procedure that seems to have been short-circuited by the surprise executive order.

The President also has the power to force the divestiture of US companies from foreign ownership through the Council on Foreign Investment in the United States (or CFIUS). But doing so also requires a specific process that seems to have been discarded in favor of a broader executive order.

It’s unclear how the order will affect TikTok’s ability to operate in the short term. Unlike Huawei and ZTE, the company does not require licenses to to operate its network, and nothing in the order seems to require app stores to cease hosting the app. However, it explicitly covers subsidiaries of Bytedance — specifically the US-based TikTok division — and will apply to any and all financial transfers to and from those subsidiaries. As a result, TikTok is likely to seek a stay of the order in court, or be forced to abruptly discontinue services as it takes effect.

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Facebook and Twitter remove manipulated video from president’s accounts after DMCA complaint

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Facebook has removed a manipulated video posted on President Trump’s account after receiving a copyright complaint from the rights owners.

The manipulated video shows a black toddler running away from a white toddler, with a CNN chyron reading “terrified toddler runs from racist baby.” The original video, which went viral last year, sees the total opposite, with the two toddlers running toward each other on the sidewalk so they can hug. The video was created by Carpe Donktum, a prolific pro-Trump meme creator who the president has amplified in the past, and uploaded to both Facebook and Twitter. It arrives as protests across the country fighting against systemic racism in the United States, and on the eve of Juneteenth — a day that many people celebrate as the day slavery ended.

Facebook took the video down after “one of the children’s parents lodged a copyright claim,” according to CNN. A Facebook representative confirmed to The Verge that a complaint was received by the rights holder. It had more than four million views by the time Facebook removed it, according to CNN. Jukin Media, a third-party company that often acquires the rights from people to viral videos, told CNN that “neither the video owner nor Jukin Media gave the President permission to post the video, and after our review, we believe that his unauthorized usage of the content is a clear example of copyright infringement without valid fair use or other defense.”

“We received a copyright complaint from the rights holder of this video under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have removed the post,” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, told The Verge.

Jukin Media has also filed a copyright claim complaint to Twitter, according to a statement posted on the company’s account. While Twitter labeled the video as “manipulated media,” it was still active on the President’s account until Friday evening. It appeared to be the first time one of Donktum’s edits has received the “manipulated media” tag, which is usually found on deepfakes. The video has been viewed nearly 20 million times at the time of this writing. It’s still unclear whether Donktum or the president’s team will argue the meme is transformative enough that it’s allowed to exist under fair use.

“We have submitted a DMCA takedown notice on behalf of the video’s creator, and in accordance with Twitter’s policy,” Jukin’s statement reads. “Separately, in no way to we support or condone the manipulate video or the message it conveys. We hope and expect Twitter will take swift action to remove the video.”

On Friday evening, Twitter disabled the video. The video was taken down due to a DMCA notice from the rights holder.

“Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Verge.

Update June 19th 5:40pm ET: Updated to include comment from Twitter and note it was removed after a copyright complaint. The headline has also been changed to reflect the update.

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