Twitter adds 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.”

Freeland’s tweets, posted in both English and French, contain several edits and shows 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 responds unequivocally: “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 an English version of the video and referenced it during a speech Sunday on the campaign trail in New Brunswick.

The Conservatives on Sunday, 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.” 

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)

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 which 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.

Big health-care promises

Freeland posted the edited video after a week in which both parties made promises on health care.

O’Toole promised to spend nearly $60 billion over the next 10 years to boost the annual growth rate of the Canada Health Transfer to at least six per cent from its current rate, which is tied to annual economic growth with a floor of three per cent.

Meanwhile Trudeau, who hit seven provinces and targeted a series of Conservative seats the Liberals lost in 2019, said he would spend billions of dollars if re-elected to address the shortfalls of Canada’s long-term care sector exposed by the pandemic.

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. 

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

The video Freeland posted shows Kate Harrison, Vice Chair of of Summa Strategies and director at Abacus Data, during a video conference asking Conservative leader Erin O’Toole if he would be “prepared to allow provinces to experiment with real healthcare reform, including the provision of private for-profit and non-profit health care options, inside of universal coverage?”

O’Toole is seen saying “yes,” adding “we can’t have one old model that is increasingly becoming inefficient. We have to find public-private synergies. At that capital will come in to drive efficiencies. I’ve run on this for several years now.”

However, he also adds: “If we want to see that innovation, we have to find public-private synergies and make sure that universal access remains paramount.”

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 healthcare,” wrote Harrison. “As the person who asked the question, I’m disappointed to see the video was manipulated to exclude important context.”

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