Expert: Acosta video distributed by White House was doctored

The video tweeted by Sanders appears to have been altered to speed up Acosta’s arm movement as he touches the intern’s arm. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Expert: Acosta video distributed by White House was doctored

  • The alteration is “too precise to be an accident,” says video expert
  • The irony of this White House video involving Jim Acosta is that if it is found to be doctored, it will show the administration to be doing what it accuses the news media of doing — engaging in fake information, says academic

NEW YORK: A video distributed by the Trump administration to support its argument for banning CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House appears to have been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive than he was during an exchange with a White House intern, an independent expert said Thursday.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted the video, which shows Acosta asking President Donald Trump a question on Wednesday as the intern tries to take his microphone away. But a frame-by-frame comparison with an Associated Press video of the same incident shows that the one tweeted by Sanders appears to have been altered to speed up Acosta’s arm movement as he touches the intern’s arm, according to Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage at AP’s request.
Earlier, Shapiro noticed that frames in the tweeted video were frozen to slow down the action, allowing it to run the same length as the AP one.
The alteration is “too precise to be an accident,” said Shapiro, who trains instructors to use video editing software. The tweeted video also does not have any audio, which Shapiro said would make it easier to alter.
Sanders, who hasn’t said where the tweeted video came from, noted that it clearly shows Acosta made contact with the intern.
While the origin of the manipulated video is unclear, its distribution marked a new low for an administration that has been criticized for its willingness to mislead.
The White House News Photographers Association decried the sharing of the footage.
“As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth,” said Whitney Shefte, the association’s president. “It’s deceptive, dangerous and unethical. Knowingly sharing manipulated images is equally problematic, particularly when the person sharing them is a representative of our country’s highest office with vast influence over public opinion.”
CNN has labeled Sanders’ characterization of Acosta’s exchange with the intern as a lie. Its position has been supported by witnesses including Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason, who was next to Acosta during the news conference and tweeted that he did not see Acosta place his hands on the White House employee. Rather, he said he saw him holding on to the microphone as she reached for it.
“The irony of this White House video involving Jim Acosta is that if it is found to be doctored, it will show the administration to be doing what it accuses the news media of doing — engaging in fake information,” said Aly Colon, a professor in journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University.
Several journalists and organizations — including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Online News Association — demanded Acosta’s press pass be reinstated.
“It is the essential function of a free press in every democracy to independently gather and report information in the public interest, a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Julie Pace, AP’s Washington bureau chief. “We strongly reject the idea that any administration would block a journalist’s access to the White House.”
The New York Times editorialized in favor of restoring Acosta’s pass, saying it signaled Trump’s view that asking hard questions disqualifies reporters from attending briefings. The newspaper said that if Sanders was so offended by physical contact, “what did she have to say when her boss praised as ‘my kind of guy’ Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana, who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last spring?“
CNN has been a frequent target of the president, who has characterized journalists as enemies of the people and who routinely accuses the mainstream media of spreading “fake news.” And Acosta has been one of the more visible thorns in the side of the White House. During their verbal altercation on Wednesday, Trump called Acosta a “terrible person.”
Still, it’s rare for the White House to pull the so-called hard passes from journalists.
During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, the Secret Service denied clearance to Robert Sherrill, a reporter for The Nation who had gotten into physical fights with government officials. During the George W. Bush presidency, Trude Feldman, who worked for various news outlets, was suspended for 90 days after security cameras recorded her looking through a press aide’s desk late one night. In the 1970s, President Nixon tried to get Washington Post reporters banned from the White House.
Despite losing his White House pass, Acosta is expected to travel to Paris this weekend to cover Trump’s trip to meet with world leaders.


Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

Updated 20 March 2019
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Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

  • Google received three fines in the past two years
  • EU Commission says Google has been blocking competitors for the past ten years

BRUSSELS: Google was fined $1.7 billion on Wednesday for blocking rival online search advertisers, the third large European Union antitrust penalty for the Alphabet business in two only years.

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 percent of Google’s turnover in 2018, said in a statement that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Google’s AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.

The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.

The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Last year, Vestager imposed a record $4.92 billion fine on Google for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals. This followed a $2.74 billion fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Google is now trying to comply with the order to ensure a level playing field with proposals to boost price comparison rivals and prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps. Critics however are still not happy.