Lawmakers and cyber experts worry about the growing danger that bad actors will disrupt an election, or even start a war, by creating and sharing a video that is doctored but looks real. A few days ago, the White House posted a video that differed from original footage of the same event, lowering its knee-high bar for truth down to ankle level.
The misleading video, posted on Twitter by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, made it look as though CNN reporter Jim Acosta had pushed a White House intern’s arm while questioning the president during a news conference. Afterward, the White House stripped Acosta of his White House press credentials, falsely accusing him of “placing his hands on a young woman” and saying that the White House “will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
Side-by-side analysis shows that the video “documenting” the event was edited to exaggerate the interaction between Acosta and the intern, which the New York Times described as “brief, benign contact.” A forensic analysis by the Times reported that the clip was identical to one posted earlier by a contributor to Infowars, a far-right website known for spreading fake news.
Unlike “deepfakes” that make it look as though a celebrity is saying something they didn’t actually say—like this video of Jordan Peele impersonating Barack Obama—the Infowars video was not sophisticated. Call it a shallowfake instead.
(1/2) The WHNPA is appalled to learn that the White House spokesperson may have shared a manipulated video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s interaction with a White House intern during a news conference. As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth.
— WHNPA (@whnpa) November 8, 2018
Trump isn’t the first president to tell a lie, and his press office isn’t the first to disseminate propaganda. What’s new and highly abnormal is a White House willing to stoop to the same level of truth-bending as the aptly named Infowars. “Manipulating images is manipulating truth,” said the White House News Photographers Association.