Presenting unaltered video in an inaccurate manner misrepresents the footage and misleads the viewer. Using incorrect dates or locations are examples of subverting context.
President Trump and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R- Fla.) claimed a video showed men giving money to women and children in Honduras to cross the U.S. border ahead of the 2018 midterm elections; Gaetz suggested that the money came from U.S. organizations and George Soros. However, the video was shot in Guatemala, not Honduras, and it was unclear why the men were handing out money to women and children.
Senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson tweeted a video on May 5 she said represented rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. But the video was filmed around or before 2014 in Belarus, 2,000 miles away.
White House social media director Dan Scavino shared this video on Twitter as flooding from Hurricane Irma at Miami International Airport in September 2017. The airport responded within minutes, saying the footage was not of Miami. The original footage appears to have been filmed in Mexico City a few weeks earlier. Scavino later acknowledged his mistake and deleted the tweet.
Sharing a brief clip from a longer video creates a false narrative that does not reflect the event as it occurred. Point-of-view videos also belong in this category when they promote only one angle of a story.
During her speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said: “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” This clip was shared on social media and her remarks spawned controversy — but it was taken out of context.
On Twitter, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) shared a clip of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, claiming he uttered a “dogwhistle for going after birth control.” The video snippet from his testimony did not make clear that Kavanaugh was quoting from the plaintiffs’ position in an contraceptive case, rather than offering his own opinion. A day later Harris replied to her tweet with a video of Kavanaugh’s full statement.
In 2012, then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney was talking about ways to increase the financial stability of Social Security when his speech was interrupted by hecklers who yelled “corporations.” He responded with “corporations are people." Romney was criticized for not thinking of “people as people”; however, his quote was isolated and repeated without the larger context of the situation.
Editing out large portions from a video and presenting it as a complete narrative, despite missing key elements, is a technique used to skew reality.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was filmed having an exchange with children and teenagers asking her to support the Green New Deal. The Sunrise Movement posted select portions of the conversation online. Although the tense moments shared initially from the exchange were accurate, the full video shows a more nuanced conversation.
A video of a supposed “sting” on Planned Parenthood by Live Action was heavily edited to omit large swaths of the conversation — the result is a video in which a Planned Parenthood staffer appears to be encouraging the selective abortions of girls.
An edited video of democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed he had called for a “physical revolution” when asked about how to work with Senate Republicans who oppose his agenda. But the shared clip removed important parts of Biden’s quote before and after those words, changing the meaning of his real answer.
Editing together disparate videos fundamentally alters the story that is being told.
CRTV took soundbites from an interview Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez conducted with another news outlet and edited together with footage of its own anchor asking questions. In less than 24 hours, the video had nearly 1 million views. CRTV later said the video was satire.
In his campaign film, “The Road We’ve Traveled,” former president Barack Obama offered a misleading account of his mother’s insurance struggles. In the film, different interviews are cut together to make it seem like she was denied health insurance on the account that her cancer was preexisting condition. In reality, the dispute was over disability coverage — a different issue altogether.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, a pro-Clinton political ad combined President Trump’s quotes over other footage and excluded key context. The video plays Trump saying: “This is the Trump theory on war. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way.” And then after a quick dip to black, immediately plays, “Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.” But his comment about nuclear weapons was actually in reference to Japan using nuclear weapons to defend itself from North Korea.
Altering the frames of a video — cropping, changing speed, using Photoshop, dubbing audio, or adding or deleting visual information — can deceive the viewer.
Videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were altered to make her sound as if she was drunkenly slurring her words. These videos spread rapidly across social media and were viewed millions of times. These manipulations were a clear attempt to shape public perception and score political points.
The White House shared video of CNN’s Jim Acosta that was edited to make his interaction with an intern at a briefing appear more aggressive. Side-by-side comparisons of the original video and the version shared by the White House showed the footage was manipulated by adding repeated frames.
A photoshopped gif was circulated on social media showing Parkland student and gun-control advocate Emma Gonzalez tearing the U.S. Constitution in half. The original image was posted in a Teen Vogue story about teenage activists and shows Gonzalez ripping up a gun-range target.
Using Artificial Intelligence to create high-quality fake images simulates audio and convincingly swaps out background images. Deepfakes and other synthetic media fall into this category.
A computer-generated image of Mark Zuckerberg was merged with actual footage of his body and synced to an actor’s audio recording. In the video, deepfake Zuckerberg describes himself as “one man, with total control over billions of people's stolen data.” This is is one of the most advanced forms of faking video.
In this example, artificial intelligence was used to manipulate images and audio to make something appear to have occurred that did not. Here, Nicolas Cage’s face is planted onto a clip of President Trump from his State of the Union speech.
Artificial intelligence was used to create a “deepfake” video of former president Barack Obama saying things he never said; public insults of President Trump and curses, for instance. Jordan Peele, a noted Obama impersonator, was actually generating Obama’s speech in previously aired footage.
About this story
This guide was developed by Nadine Ajaka, Glenn Kessler, and Elyse Samuels. By searching through and watching many hours of manipulated videos and reflecting on notable examples in the news cycle, we were able to pull out common threads for this standardized vocabulary. As the technology to manipulate video advances, there's even more urgency to understand what's real versus fake. This page will update with new examples as they emerge, so if you see a suspicious video, send it to us using the submission form below.