Politics

Twitter adds 'manipulated' warning label to tweet from Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland

A video tweeted by incumbent Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, who served as deputy prime minister in Justin Trudeau's government, was given a warning label Sunday from Twitter, which marked it as "manipulated media."

Liberal party says it disagrees with label and is seeking explanation from Twitter

Twitter labelled a video tweeted by incumbent Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, who is seeking re-election, as having 'manipulated media.' She is pictured with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as they make a campaign stop in Markham, Ont., on Aug. 17. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A video tweeted by incumbent Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, who served as deputy prime minister in Justin Trudeau's government, was given a warning label Sunday from Twitter, which marked it as "manipulated media."

Freeland's tweets, posted in both English and French, contain several edits and show Conservative leader Erin O'Toole answering a question about privatized health care during an online question-and-answer session in July 2020 during the Conservative leadership race.

The tweet shows O'Toole being asked if he would bring private, "for-profit" health care to Canada. He quickly responds: "yes." 

However, in the original recording of O'Toole's remarks on heath care — which can be seen here at about the 12:30 mark — the Conservative leader also noted that universal access remains paramount. 

The shortened clip used in Freeland's tweet did not include O'Toole's statement on ensuring universal access.

Trudeau retweeted the video and drew on it during a speech Sunday to attack O'Toole on the campaign trail in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Liberals 'spreading misinformation': Conservatives

Conservative Party lawyers have sent a letter to the commissioner of Canada Elections calling for an investigation into the matter to determine who was involved in making the video. The party is also requesting the commissioner ask the Liberals to take down the post.

On Sunday, the party accused the Liberals of spreading misinformation.

"It's disappointing to see the Liberals resort to American-style divisive politics," said Mathew Clancy, the Conservatives' manager of media relations.

"While Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are focused on spreading misinformation, Erin O'Toole is focused on Canada's Recovery Plan and securing the future." 

Answering reporters' questions in Halifax, Trudeau defended Freeland's tweet.

"We posted the entire interview in its entirety and I encourage all Canadians to take a look to see what Erin O'Toole has to say about what he sees on the future of health care," he said.

The Conservatives had their own Twitter misstep roughly a week ago. Twitter removed a video the party posted following a copyright infringement complaint and the Conservatives subsequently deleted the tweet.

The Conservatives had posted a video mocking Trudeau by placing his face on a character from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Some sitting Conservative MPs called the tweet juvenile and a bad idea during a federal election. 

Twitter's manipulated media tag is seen on this tweet. 'In order to determine if media have been significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated, we may use our own technology or receive reports through partnerships with third parties,' says Twitter's website. (Twitter)

Twitter launched warning labels last year

On Sunday, Twitter Canada said it issued the warning labels on both English and French versions of Freeland's tweet.

"The tweets in question have both been labelled in line with our global synthetic and manipulated policy," Twitter Canada said in a statement to CBC.

It noted that labelled tweets have limited visibility in search functions, replies and on timelines and are not recommended algorithmically by Twitter.

Twitter launched the warning labels in early 2020, ahead of the U.S. presidential election as social media platforms braced for an onslaught of misinformation.

Twitter's website says it puts labels on content that it believes are "significantly and deceptively altered or manipulated" including substantially edited in a way that alters the timing, sequencing, framing, adds subtitles, or if a real person is fabricated or simulated.

"We also consider whether the context in which media are shared could result in confusion or misunderstanding or suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people about the nature or origin of the content, for example by falsely claiming that it depicts reality," according to Twitter's website.

When asked about the Twitter warning label, the Liberals said the Twitter posts included a highlights video, which runs 35 seconds, and noted that another Freeland tweet contains a link to O'Toole's full-length answer, which runs 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

Liberals disagree with Twitter warning

The party said it disagrees with Twitter's decision to label it manipulated media.

"The highlights are an accurate reflection of Mr. O'Toole's statement in its entirety," wrote a Liberal party spokesperson in a statement to CBC News. "We disagree with the assessment and are seeking an explanation from Twitter.

"We'll let Canadians judge for themselves what Mr. O'Toole meant by his comments."

During Trudeau's speech Sunday he accused O'Toole of taking the wrong approach during the pandemic and trying to hold back help. 

WATCH | NDP leader says misinformation should not be allowed online

NDP leader says misinformation should not be allowed online

30 days ago
1:36
Jagmeet Singh was responding to a question about Twitter labelling a campaign video from incumbent candidate Chrystia Freeland as 'manipulated media.' 1:36

"We just saw today that Erin O'Toole in the pandemic came out clearly in favour of a private, for-profit health-care system for Canada," Trudeau said. "Shame on you, in a pandemic, no less." 

The video Freeland posted shows Kate Harrison, vice-chair of Summa Strategies and director at Abacus Data, during a video conference asking O'Toole if he would be "prepared to allow provinces to experiment with real health-care reform, including the provision of private for-profit and non-profit health-care options, inside of universal coverage?"

Harrison also tweeted her disapproval of the video on Sunday saying it was edited out of context. 

"There's a video circulating online of Erin O'Toole responding to a question on health care," wrote Harrison. "As the person who asked the question, I'm disappointed to see the video was manipulated to exclude important context."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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