The battle ahead of the Democratic primary elections to select the party's candidate for the 2020 US presidential ballot is heating up, with candidates involved in headline-grabbing mutual accusations and other controversies.
Speaking of which: Joe Biden, considered by some to be the front-runner to get the nomination, has falsely accused one of his rivals, Senator Bernie Sanders, of using “a doctored video.”
Biden, a former US vice-president, addressed at a college audience on Saturday saying that the video – showing him speak in 2018 and agree with former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on the need to privatize Social Security – was “doctored.”
However, this isn't exactly true.
Fact-checkers come into play here: even PolitiFact found that none of the videos circulated by the Sanders campaign had been altered in any way. However, an email that the campaign sent, stating that Biden “lauded Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare,” was found to be incorrect.
But Biden seized on the opportunity to quote a fact-checker in his attack on Sanders, claiming that PolitiFact had actually found that his rival's staff “doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it's acknowledged that it's a fake.”
Biden continued to say that it was “a doctored tape” – and that he expected its alleged authors to apologize and disown it.
Accusing the Sanders campaign of a misquote is far less “sexy” than playing the “doctored video” card – which could be one reason Biden decided to go down that road, seeking no doubt to deflect attention from what Politico said was his a track-record of past support for cuts to Social Security.
As the website remarked, the accusation of voter and public opinion manipulation through fake but convincing videos and photos is a weapon that the Democrats are using against Republicans and President Donald Trump. But it seems that they are now also turning it at each other.
And it's not a tactic coming out of nowhere: last year, the state of California passed a law, AB 730, that was written by Democrats and made it illegal to distribute “doctored” videos and other content of politicians. These so-called deepfakes have been outlawed within 60 days of an election, reports said last fall.