“I thought Biden had someone in the ear,” said a Trump supporter the morning after the first presidential debate. Her belief was supported by a video she saw when Biden reportedly adjusted a wire during the debate.
She was on her way to a Trump rally in Duluth, Minnesota and was referring to a YouTube video she received from a friend who served in the overseas military.
In fact, the video doesn’t show Biden wearing a wire. it shows a crease briefly forming on Biden’s shirt after reaching into his coat to itch his shoulder. But when false evidence emerged to support the unfounded earpiece claim, it all started like wildfire.
A version of the video flagged as incorrect by fact checkers on Facebook was shared more than 22,000 times and viewed 800,000 times by Thursday night.
Alan Duke, editor-in-chief of Lead Stories, a fact-checking company that partners with Facebook, said his team flagged hundreds of videos and pictures with false earphone claims. He said it was one of the most widespread false stories his team dealt with this year ̵
The earpiece conspiracy theory continued to evolve, Duke said, and on Wednesday his team had to flag as a false claim that Biden had an IV during the debate.
While many versions of the wire video on Facebook featured prominently fact-checking, the YouTube video watched by the woman who attended the Duluth rally was still live Thursday night and had more than 48,000 views and no fact-checking. The video was also shared on Twitter, and one version alone had 4 million views by Thursday night.
Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson, said the video did not violate his guidelines. The company said that when it searched for queries like “Joe Biden Wire” it referred to fact-checking.
However, the Duluth woman who showed the video to CNN had received the video directly from a friend. This means that she would not have seen the fact check, as YouTube only identifies search queries, not individual videos.
Twitter said the video wasn’t breaking its rules and didn’t provide any further explanation.
Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, said he checked the video but would not remove it.
Just as many conservatives believe Silicon Valley and the mainstream media are biased against them, that suspicion extends to Facebook’s fact-checkers as well.
Supporters at two Trump rallies in Minnesota in the past few weeks told CNN that posts they share on Facebook are sometimes deemed incorrect, but they don’t believe the fact-checkers.
When the Duluth rally participant learned that the video had been fact checked and found to be false – that what looked like a wire for short was instead a crease in Biden’s shirt – he appeared to have dismissed the fact-checker’s verdict.
“You’re talking about Joe Biden, do you think his shirt isn’t perfectly pressed?” She asked.