A fake video that depicts in extremely graphic fashion President Trump attacking and shooting his critics and media outlets does not violate YouTube’s policies against content that incites violence because it is “purely fictional,” the company told CNN Business Monday.
The video, which has been circulating on YouTube and Facebook (FB) for more than a year, came to national prominence on Sunday after The New York Times reported it had been played at a conference held by a pro-Trump group at Trump’s Miami resort last week.
The video is an edited clip of a scene depicting a brawl inside a church from a 2014 movie. President Trump’s head is superimposed on the main character in the video and it shows him shooting, stabbing, and assaulting other people in the church whose heads have been edited to show Trump’s critics and the logos of news organizations. At one point, Trump is depicted as shooting in the head a person whose face has been replaced by a Black Lives Matter logo.
YouTube’s policies say it does not allow videos “encouraging others to commit violent acts.” However, it says, it makes exceptions for some graphic content depending on context. Videos that are “educational, scientific, newsworthy, or a documentary” may be exempt, it says.
YouTube said it applied an age-restriction and warning on the fake Trump video after it was “notified” about it, but it did not remove the clip.
“For content containing violence that is clearly fictional, we age-restrict and display a warning interstitial. We applied these protections to this video,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson.
YouTube, which is owned by Google (GOOG), would not say when it had done that.
While YouTube may view the video as “purely fictional,” for some journalists and some newsrooms it depicts something very real, and capable of provoking violence.
Last year, a Trump supporter sent mail bombs to prominent Democrats and the New York offices of CNN. CNN is one of the outlets shown in the video being killed by Trump.
Just last month, a US Army soldier was arrested after allegedly discussing bombing a news network. Sources familiar with the matter say the suspect had discussed targeting CNN with a vehicle bomb.
In a statement responding to the playing of the fake Trump video at a Trump supporters’ event, CNN said Sunday night, “Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining – but it is by far and away the worst. The images depicted are vile and horrific.”
“The President and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone,” it added.
The White House Correspondents’ Association also condemned the video.
“We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society,” the association’s president Jonathan Karl said.
The video has been on YouTube and Facebook since at least July 2018.
Facebook also has a policy to remove “language that incites or facilitates serious violence,” but adds it tries to “distinguish casual statements from content that constitutes a credible threat to public or personal safety.”
A Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business that the company was reviewing the video. As of Monday afternoon the video was still live on the platform.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted Monday morning that the President had not yet seen the video but would watch it “shortly.” She added that “based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video.”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, told the Times he didn’t know anything about the video. “That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence,” he said.
Phillips, the organizer for the event, said in a statement to the Times on Sunday that the clip was played at the conference as part of a “meme exhibit.”
“Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity,” Phillips said. “American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech. This matter is under review.”