A CNN reporter stands in front of a photo of a helicopter flying over the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, a city that has fallen into chaos. Below the image, a caption reads: “Violent but mostly peaceful transfer of power.”
The image, purportedly a screenshot of the network, was widely circulated on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, prompting questions about its authenticity. Some wondered how the transfer could be considered peaceful. What did the language mean to be a satire?
Turns out the image was fake.
Reuters other Politifact They both verified the image and concluded that, like so many previous photos, it had been digitally altered. The doctored image borrowed a screenshot by CNN correspondent Omar Jiménez from a 2020 broadcast of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over a police shooting. At that time, some conservatives he criticized CNN for publishing the headline “Fierce but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting.”
Altered images and videos, like a doctored version of a Nancy Pelosi speech that made the Speaker of the House look drunk, have plagued Facebook and Twitter for years. Now him trouble it is resurfacing as news emerges from Afghanistan, which quickly fell into chaos when the United States turned 20. As before, social media is turning to labels and warnings to warn users about fake content.
On Sunday, Taliban fighters seized Kabul, the capital, and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Violence erupted at the city’s international airport, with videos spreading on social media of people clinging to a US military plane as it took off and others falling from another plane in midair. The Associated Press, citing senior US military officials, it reported that at least seven people died at the airport.
The turmoil in Afghanistan poses a number of familiar challenges for social media, which monitors its platforms for offensive content, including graphic images. Some Facebook videos of people falling from airplanes warned users that the content did not violate their rules, but could include violent or graphic content. Similar videos appeared on Twitter and TikTok without a tag.
On Facebook and its photo-sharing service Instagram, the manipulated CNN image was tagged as altered. “Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people,” the label read. The fake CNN caption was also used as a title on a YouTube video with different video footage, and the altered image was also spread by Twitter, which did not add a tag. YouTube did not tag the video and said the video did not violate its rules.
Instagram boss: ‘The risk will evolve’
Adam Mosseri, who runs Instagram, said Bloomberg Television that the photo-sharing service prohibits posts promoting the Taliban, which is covered by its dangerous organizing policies due to US government sanctions.
“We rely on that policy to proactively remove anything we can that may be dangerous or related to the Taliban in general,” Mosseri said. “Now this situation is evolving rapidly, and with it I am confident that risk will evolve as well. We will have to modify what we do and how we do it to respond to those changing risks as they occur.”
A Facebook spokesperson said the company has a dedicated team, “which includes Afghan citizens and native speakers of Dari and Pashto,” to assess the situation in real time.
“Our teams continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, in consultation with our partners, and will take action on any content that violates these policies,” the spokesperson said in a statement. Facebook online rules prohibits glorifying violence or celebrating the suffering of others, but note that it will include a warning screen for some gory content.
Facebook also noted that it bans the Taliban from its services because they are “sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law.” The social media giant owns a messaging app Financial times.and reportedly blocked a number used by the Taliban that is intended to be a hotline for civilians to report violence, looting and other issues, according to The
From April to June, the social network took action on 7 million content that included terrorism, according to Facebook. Community standards compliance report released Wednesday. Facebook did not say how much of that content was related to the Taliban. The New York Times reported Wednesday that it found more than 100 new accounts and pages on Facebook and Twitter claiming to belong to the Taliban or expressing support for the group.
On YouTube, some media outlets added their own warnings at the beginning of the videos that warned users that the images were graphic. But not all did. YouTube added age restrictions and a tag to a video of people falling from a plane that was published by the Hindustan Times, a large Indian newspaper. The label noted that “the video may be inappropriate for some users.”
YouTube rules do not allow violent, graphic or shocking content, although they do make exceptions for educational, documentary, artistic or scientific content. The company said it also shows videos from authoritative sources during breaking news events.
In a statement, a YouTube spokesperson said the video-sharing platform would “terminate” accounts it believes are owned and operated by the Taliban due to sanctions and trade compliance laws.
Twitter pointed to its policies against violent organizations and hateful behavior. The company received criticism from some conservatives for allowing Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid to use its platform. Some activists accused the Taliban of ““and disseminating information that conflicts with news reports. The company did not immediately respond to questions about whether the account violated its rules.
The company has been testing a forum called Birdwatch that allows users to bookmark tweets and write notes with more context. Some of the notes included content on Afghanistan.
In a tweet that was labeled “not misleading” and “potentially misleading,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, tweeted that US President Joe Biden “apparently” had no “plans” to talk about Afghanistan. Both notes said Rubio tweeted before Biden announced that he would speak on the issue later Monday.
Other users of misleading tweets point out that a video shared by some high-profile conservatives, including US Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, “attempts to frame CNN as defenders of the Taliban and their takeover of Afghanistan.” The video shows CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward reporting that the Taliban fighters are “just hailing death to America, but they seem friendly at the same time. It’s completely weird.”
TikTok did not immediately respond to questions about how it moderates content about Afghanistan.
Richard Nieva contributed to this report.