August 23, 2021
TORONTO — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Monday defended a video posted to Twitter by Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland that was flagged by the social network as “manipulated media.”
On Sunday morning, Freeland tweeted an edited video featuring Erin O’Toole and suggested that the Conservative leader wants more private-for-profit involvement in Canada’s health care system. The video subsequently received a “manipulated media” warning label from Twitter.
The edited video in question was taken from an online Q&A session with O’Toole while he was still running for the Conservative Party leadership back in July 2020. He is asked if he would consider “the provision of private-for-profit and non-profit healthcare options inside of universal coverage.”
O’Toole answers that he supports finding “public-private synergies.” But the Liberals’ video is heavily cut and spliced and doesn’t include that his statement about wanting to ensure universal access to healthcare “remains paramount.”
“Last year, as COVID-19 raged, Erin O’Toole was asked if he would bring private, ‘for-profit’ healthcare to Canada. He responded unequivocally: yes,” Freeland tweeted on Sunday morning.
Both the English and French versions of the tweet received the warning label. Trudeau’s account also retweeted the edited videos.
Freeland also posted a link to a recording of O’Toole’s full answer in a subsequent tweet in the thread. Trudeau defended the tweet on Monday morning at a campaign stop in Halifax and encouraged Canadians to watch O’Toole’s full answer.
“What’s really important here is that in the middle of a pandemic, Erin O’Toole came out unequivocally in support of private health care, in terms of for-profit healthcare,” he told reporters. “We posted the entire interview in its entirety, and I encourage all Canadians to take a look to see what Erin O’Toole has to say about what he sees on the future of healthcare.”
According to Twitter’s synthetic and manipulated media policy, content may receive a “manipulated media” label if it has been “deceptively altered” or “shared in a deceptive matter.” This includes videos that have been spliced to change its meaning.
Public and government affairs consultant Kate Harrison, who had asked O’Toole the question in the Q&A session, expressed her disappointment with the Liberals’ edited video and called it “actively dishonest.”
“I’m disappointed to see the video was manipulated to exclude important context,” she tweeted on Sunday.
The Tories are asking Elections Canada to investigate the tweet as a violation of the Canada Elections Act, saying the Liberals have intentionally altered the original video to make it materially misrepresent the position of the Conservative party. The party sent a second letter to Elections Canada on Monday, writing that the “manipulated media” warning from Twitter “underscores the need for quick, remedial action” from the Elections Canada Commissioner.
A spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office confirmed in an email to CTV News that the office has received the complaint but declined to comment further, citing confidentiality.
O’Toole reiterated his support for Canada’s universal health care system on Monday morning and accused Trudeau of “dividing and misleading Canadians.”
“Let me be perfectly clear. I 100 per cent support our public and universal health care system,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “In fact, it’s been the backbone we’ve relied on through the pandemic and the frontline workers in it.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the edited video “troubling” and says it underscores the need to combat online misinformation.
“(We) want to see very strong laws in place that do not allow misinformation information to be spread, and we need to be taking an active role in the removal and the flagging of this type of information,” Singh told reporters at a campaign stop in Montreal on Monday morning. “It is really disconcerting, though, that the current party in power is engaging in exactly what we need to see to be ending.”