Facebook, Instagram join Twitter in removing Trump campaign videos over copyright complaints
Facebook and Instagram took down video tributes to George Floyd posted by the Trump campaign over copyright complaints on Friday, following a similar decision by Twitter — broadening the latest skirmish over the policing of online messages from President Donald Trump and his allies.
Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram removed posts by official Trump campaign accounts that included videos narrated by Trump discussing Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The narration is played over a series of photographs and videos that appear to have been taken during recent protests around the country over Floyd’s killing.
“We received a copyright complaint from the creator under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have removed the post,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told POLITICO in an email. “Organizations that use original art shared on Instagram are expected to have the right to do so.”
The move by the companies follows a parallel action by Twitter, which on Thursday morning disabled the same video included in a pair of tweets by @TeamTrump and @TrumpWarRoom 2020 campaign accounts, also citing an unspecified complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The company left up the tweets but placed an overlay on the videos that reads, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”
Trump’s campaign blasted Twitter’s decision in a tweet Thursday, accusing the company of censorship. “Twitter and @Jack are censoring this uplifting and unifying message from President Trump after the #GeorgeFloyd tragedy,” the campaign tweeted from the @TeamTrump account. The campaign’s tweeted barb included a link to a version of the video posted on Google-owned YouTube.
A California law firm confirmed to POLITICO that it submitted copyright complaints to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube over the video, which it says infringed on material from an artist it represents. YouTube was the only platform not to comply as of Friday afternoon, said Sam Koolaq, who heads the solo practice in Burbank.
“My client is very talented, so I can understand why the President chose to use their work as part of his re-election efforts,” Koolaq said in an emailed statement. “Thankfully, the law protects artists from unauthorized usage, even when the unauthorized user is the President.”
YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi told POLITICO the video uploaded to the platform is different from the version posted to Twitter and did not contain the allegedly infringing content upon review. The platform is leaving up the post, Choi said.
The incident comes as Trump has ratcheted up his public feud with Twitter — and Silicon Valley more broadly — after the company slapped fact-checking and warning labels on some of his tweets about voting fraud and the Floyd protests last week. Facebook did not place warnings on the same posts on its platform.
Trump last week signed an executive order targeting social media companies including Twitter and Facebook that asks regulators to consider whether their liability protections against lawsuits over user posts should be pared down. Online businesses are broadly shielded from such legal action under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that has come under fire from critics across the political spectrum in Washington.
But the provision includes an exemption from that immunity over copyright infringement, meaning companies could be held liable for not taking action against posts in violation of intellectual property. This has historically led to more stringent enforcement against potential copyright violations by the social media giants and other digital firms.
Twitter disabled a separate post by Trump’s personal account last year that included a clip that pulled footage from a music video by the rock band Nickelback over a copyright complaint.