Twitter suspends account that spread viral confrontation

CNN and Washington Post put the controversial encounter into context concerning a Native American veteran and a group of high school students wearing MAGA hats at the nation’s capitol.

This post discusses how technology spreads incomplete information via non-journalists who might have personal or political agendas. It does not attempt to discuss the specifics of the encounter but the technology behind it as an act of media manipulation.

For a more comprehensive report on the confrontation, see this article by the Washington Post, which discusses responsibility of the high school boys’ chaperones as well as what other bystanders observed.

The Post also provides a more complete version of the encounter in the above video, featuring an interview with Nathan Phillips, the Native American veteran seen chanting and playing a drum.

The student, Nick Sandman, released his own statement. In it, he writes:

The protestor [sic] everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face. I never interacted with this protestor [sic]. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures. …  To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers. I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. …  

The viral video only showed what appeared to be a confrontation between Sandman and Phillips with the student intentionally blocking the veteran’s path.

CNN business reported the following about the viral video:

    • A more complete video was posted on Instagram by a person attending the event.
    • An account of the video by @2020fight featured only the segment of Sandman and Phillips with this caption: “This MAGA loser gleefully bothering a Native American protester at the Indigenous Peoples March.”
    • 2020@fight was said to belong to a California schoolteacher. But the profile photo depicted a Brazilian blogger.
    • The 2020@fight account tweeted on average 130 times a day and had more than 40,000 followers.
    • A network of anonymous accounts were working to amplify the video.
    • Multiple newsrooms tried unsuccessfully to contact @2020fight.

After @2020fight’s video was released, it made national news and was retweeted 14,400 times, according to CNN Business.

The Washington Post video above shows how a journalist would have handled the encounter, interviewing a main participant and also not sensationalizing the taunts directed at the students by a small group of protesters. It showcases attempts to be fair and balanced … after the fact.

Conversely, many media outlets ran with the viral version of the encounter without vetting it as CNN and the Washington Post did later. By then, however, the controversial video had been viewed on social media more than 2.5 million times.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine discusses how technology manipulates media with sections about fake news that drive political agendas, as happened in the 2016 presidential election.

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