Doctored videos exaggerate Fetterman’s speech issues in viral social media posts

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deceptively Edited videos that have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter and TikTok exaggerate the speech problems that plagued John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the open US Senate seat from Pennsylvania, after suffering a stroke in May.

Despite both platforms’ policies against political misinformation, the videos remained viewable for days and were shared by Fetterman’s critics.

The videos include slight edits, such as muting the audience to make it look like they’ve abruptly stopped talking (some of the cutouts happened when he paused during moments of applause and reaction of the crowd, according to unedited videos seen by NBC News). Further edits cut Fetterman off mid-sentence, to create the perception that what he was saying was nonsense.

Joe Calvello, spokesman for Fetterman, the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, said in an email in response to the videos: “It is quite sad and frankly desperate that the MAGA allies of Dr. Oz are misleadingly editing videos of John speaking in order to mock him while he recovers. of a cerebrovascular accident.

Famous physician Mehmet Oz is Fetterman’s Republican opponent.

The videos could violate Twitter’s rules against political misinformation, even though they are still available. The platform says he forbids “synthetic, manipulated or out-of-context media” that are “likely to cause widespread confusion on matters of public interest”.

Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TikTok removed the videos NBC News reported to it, citing its “integrity and authenticity” policy, which includes rules on misinformation.

The videos are among the highest-profile misleading videos to circulate ahead of the midterms, though they are not the first in this race. Another “cheapfake”, a term for slightly doctored media, was released in which Oz appeared to be posing for a photo with a sign reading “NO” instead of “OZ”.

In the past, platforms have taken action against viral videos of politicians that have been manipulated. As the 2020 election approached, doctored videos that made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, look impaired went viral on social media. Experts have warned that these lightly edited videos, also sometimes called “shallow fakes,” can be particularly effective pieces of disinformation.

Fetterman gave the speech used in the edited video at a campaign rally on Sunday. In it, he joked about some of the verbal slip-ups that occurred after his stroke, speaking slowly and sometimes appearing to insert extra words into his sentences or rephrase things mid-sentence, which his detractors complained about. concentrated.

Asking members of the public if they’ve ever had any health issues, he referenced Oz, saying, “I really hope for all of you that you haven’t had a doctor in your life who don’t care about that.”

Speculation about Fetterman’s health has reached fever pitch in recent weeks. Fetterman only agreed to a debate with Oz last week after facing numerous questions and attacks from Oz and his supporters.

Fetterman, who has maintained a limited schedule since his stroke, said he’s been working to improve his auditory processing and speech while recovering. The editorial board of The Washington Post called on him to publish his health records and host numerous debates, and the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also expressed concerns about Fetterman’s health.

Edited videos of Fetterman’s speech on Sunday drew on speculation, gaining the most traction on Twitter when they were posted by Greg Price, senior digital strategist at X Strategies, a conservative policy advisory group.

A video Price tweeted on Monday has over 600,000 views and has been shared hundreds of times. Another video he posted on Monday, which appeared to have been edited to cut the audio from the audience, has been viewed more than 120,000 times on Twitter and was captioned “In case you were wondering why the John Fetterman’s managers wouldn’t let him argue…. ”

In Twitter messages exchanged with NBC News, Price did not respond to specific questions about how the videos were put together or where he obtained them. He said Fetterman is “clearly unfit in all respects to serve in the Senate.”

After this article was published, Price tweeted that he got the video without the audience audio from someone else’s Twitter account. He defended the edits to the clip, which combined multiple clips, saying, “I just took the things he said at a rally and edited them together into a Supercut.”

The videos have also migrated to other social media platforms. On TikTok, before the videos were taken down, a search for “Fetterman” returned a cut of the edited speech as the first recommended result, even though it was posted two days ago. An edited video posted on the platform has over 32,000 views.

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