Over the last few days, a fake Joe Biden campaign ad has gone viral across Twitter, boosted in part by current and former Trump campaign staffers. After The Verge’s report on the image, Twitter said that it was in violation of its elections rules.
The image shows Biden with a beam of light emanating from his chest with “His brain? No. His heart.” overlaid on top with the campaign’s official logo, too. This tweet appears to be the original and has accrued over 10,000 retweets and 62,000 likes as of publication.
The fake ad has also been posted across other social media platforms like Reddit and Tumblr but caught fire on Twitter this week after an account called @khakijorts posted the image, captioning it, “This is a real ad 100% cannot make this up.”
The Biden campaign confirmed to The Verge that the ad was faked.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for President Trump’s reelection campaign, has also tweeted out the fake ad. “Is this fake?” Murtaugh wrote. “Can’t trust Twitter, but this would seem to be the Biden campaign leaning in on the fact that ol’ Joe has lost his fastball.” Karen Giorno, former chief strategist for the Florida branch of Trump’s 2016 campaign, also shared the fake ad, writing “No joke. This is a real ad approved by @JoeBiden for President.”
Over the past year, Twitter has implemented a “manipulated media” tag to limit the spread of misleading political media, but it’s largely been targeted at “deepfake” audio and video, and it’s unclear whether the Biden image would count. In March, Twitter applied a “manipulated media” tag to a tweet featuring a doctored video of Biden that was shared by Dan Scavino, the White House’s social media director.
Bill Russo, deputy communications director for the Biden campaign, told The Verge, “While the President continues to assail our free press as ‘fake news’ — once again it is his campaign spreading lies and disinformation. Sadly, we don’t expect any better from the Trump Campaign as they get increasingly desperate.”
The ad has spread entirely organically, and neither side would have been able to boost it, since Twitter banned political advertising outright in October. After The Verge notified the company of the image, a spokesperson said, “Our enforcement team determined that this Tweet violates our Election Integrity Policy. They’re taking appropriate steps to enforce our policy across the service.” Murtaugh’s tweet has been removed. Twitter said that enforcement action would be taken across the platform soon.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump confidants like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani pushed a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was suffering from a secret illness due to a brief absence from the campaign trail. Clinton was suffering from only mild pneumonia, but many believed her response to the rumors eroded her credibility. Right-wing groups have continued the tactic in 2020, posting similar health conspiracies regarding Biden throughout campaign season.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but as of press time, the platform has not labeled the image as false or taken down any of the tweets sharing it.
Updated April 23rd, 7:14PM ET: Updated with a statement from Twitter noting that the fake ad violated its rules.