A misleading manipulated video of President Joe Biden awarding the Medal of Honor to a veteran has received millions of views on social media platforms. The video has spread on multiple platforms, including Twitter, even though the platform seemingly prohibits this kind of deceptive content.
On July 5, Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to four veterans for their service during the Vietnam War. He bestowed the honor by putting the medal around their necks, as is normal procedure for awarding government medals.
A grainy and blurry version of a clip in which Biden put the medal around one of the veterans, Dwight Birdwell, started circulating on social media platforms, with users falsely claiming that the president put the medal on backwards. A Media Matters review has found that the video has received more than 3.4 million views on mainstream platforms.
The vast majority of those views have been on Twitter, where just one upload of the video had at least 2.3 million views. Other uploads on the platform have also received hundreds of thousands of combined views. Multiple right-wing figures have also shared the video on Twitter as an accurate depiction of the ceremony, including the chairperson of the Texas Republican Party, a Newsmax host, and Infowars personality Paul Joseph Watson.
Twitter rules prohibit “synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media that may deceive or confuse people and lead to harm.” If the platform does not remove the content, then it “may provide additional context on Tweets sharing the misleading media where they appear on Twitter,” which includes applying “a label and/or warning message to the Tweet.” Thus far, the uploads of the video have not been removed, nor has a label been put on them. Twitter has previously struggled to consistently enforce its labeling policy.
The spread of the video was not limited to Twitter. Multiple uploads of the video have gone up on YouTube, including a YouTube Short of the video with more than 170,000 views. YouTube rules prohibit “content that has been technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users (beyond clips taken out of context) and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm.”
TikTok users have also uploaded the video on the platform, getting hundreds of thousands of views; one version alone has more than 145,000 views. TikTok prohibits “Digital Forgeries (Synthetic Media or Manipulated Media) that mislead users by distorting the truth of events and cause significant harm to the subject of the video, other persons, or society.”
This is not the first time that mainstream platforms have struggled with the spread of manipulated content. In 2020, for instance, the platforms did not catch the spread of a manipulated “blackface” video with Biden. And the year before that, a manipulated video that made it seem like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was drunk spread on multiple platforms.