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Facebook and Twitter took down a Trump campaign video over copyright concerns

It’s not unusual. But the Trump campaign sees it as an escalation.

President Trump sitting at a desk holding his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture.
Trump’s campaign said Twitter was “censoring” their campaign.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Twitter disabled a video this week on a post by the Trump campaign, while Facebook and Instagram removed posts with the video on Trump campaign accounts. The move could escalate the companies’ tensions with the president, whose tweets have recently been subject to warning labels from the company and whose Facebook posts remain controversial. In this instance, however, the takedowns happened for a more traditional reason.

The video in the Trump campaign’s post was a four-minute tribute to George Floyd, the black man in Minneapolis who died after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, setting off a wave of protests about police brutality and racism that has swept the nation. Twitter said it had removed the video after receiving copyright complaints. Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also removed posts from the Trump campaign accounts that contained the video.

We respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” a Twitter spokesperson told Recode.

“We received a copyright complaint from the creator under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and have removed the post,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “Organizations that use original art shared on Instagram are expected to have the right to do so.”

While the Facebook and Instagram posts have been taken down, the Trump campaign tweet itself is still up. The tweet, posted on Wednesday, now reads in place of the video: “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”

This is not the first time Twitter has removed content posted by Trump due to copyright reasons. But notably, this takedown comes shortly after a series of much more controversial decisions by Twitter to limit the reach of Trump’s posts because they either did not pass a fact-check or, in Twitter’s opinion, glorified violence.

Facebook has made different decisions, citing its commitment to free speech, and has been willing to leave Trump’s posts up.

Complaints about copyright violations are not uncommon in the world of social media. A George Floyd tribute video was also uploaded to the official Donald J. Trump YouTube channel, but YouTube said its video was different than the ones on Twitter and that there was no content that violated copyright in the version on its website.

Trump aides seized on Twitter’s decision, which was announced before Facebook’s, and suggested that it further inflamed tensions between the platform and the reelection campaign.

“This incident is yet another reminder that Twitter is making up the rules as they go along,” a campaign spokesperson said. “Twitter has repeatedly failed to explain why their rules seem to only apply to the Trump campaign but not to others. Censoring out the president’s important message of unity around the George Floyd protests is an unfortunate escalation of this double standard.”

It was not stated who filed the copyright complaint. The video, called “Healing, Not Hatred,” features a voiceover of Trump delivering a speech about violent protests, while a mix of both foreboding and uplifting videos, images, and scores intersperse with his remarks. Meanwhile, Trump has been harshly criticized not only for tweeting misleading information that portrays the protests as violent but also for having enacted policies that encouraged police brutality.

Although the video in his campaign’s tweet was taken down for somewhat mundane reasons, the incident is the latest development in the president’s war with social media companies. Snap this week said it would no longer promote Trump on its Discover platform because of his rhetoric. Facebook has steadfastly declined to enforce similar policies to Twitter’s to limit Trump’s reach — but its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, took significant blowback from his own employees over that decision.