Bogus CPD tweet goes viral, but Twitter says it won’t set the record straight

Images of a fake tweet that appears to show the Chicago Police Department sympathizing with the former Minneapolis cop who killed George Floyd last year has generated millions of impressions on Twitter since it began circulating late last week.

But Twitter says the bogus and falsely attributed images don’t violate its policies, so it will not take any action to flag the misinformation or remove the tweets from their site.

“We are all Derek Chauvin,” reads the faked caption that’s accompanied by a photo of the convicted ex-cop under the Chicago Police Department’s verified Twitter handle.

A screenshot of one widely-shared tweet that contains the fake CPD tweet. | Twitter

As of Monday night, versions of the manufactured image have been passed off as legitimate in tweets that have been “liked” more than 300,000 times and re-tweeted more than 64,000 times. CPD reported the tweet to Twitter on Saturday and was quickly told that the company would do nothing about it.

“They reviewed the content, and didn’t find a violation of their policies, so no action will be taken at this time,” the real Chicago Police Department account tweeted Saturday evening.

The police department filed additional complaints with Twitter on Sunday and Monday, CPD spokesperson Luis Agostini said. Twitter rejected CPD’s calls for action again on Monday afternoon because the company feels there is an “overwhelming response in the replies and mentions, debunking or refuting the authenticity of the Tweet.”

Twitter’s “synthetic and manipulated media policy” clearly states that content can be removed or labeled if media “are significantly and deceptively altered or manipulated.” But the company refused to affix a “manipulated media label” to let its users know that the actual Chicago Police Department never sent the tweet, according to its response to CPD on Monday.

In another tweet Monday, CPD said the fake image “is antithetical to our values, [and] reflect[s] the very worst of disinformation on social media, it also puts our officers & communities at risk by widening the gap in trust that we are working so hard to build, bridge & restore.”

In reality, the official CPD Twitter account last May said, “what happened to George Floyd is reprehensible.” Police Supt. David Brown called the killing of Floyd “absolutely reprehensible” in a video that accompanied the tweet.

“I am both saddened and outraged by the death of George Floyd,” Brown said. “There is not one officer who is not shocked and disappointed by the actions seen” in the video of Floyd’s murder, he continued.

While Twitter takes a hands-off approach, another social media giant is not. Facebook on Monday began placing a “false information” overlay on the fake tweet when the image appears on its platform.

Facebook displays a “false information” flag when the fake image appears on its platform.

The police department isn’t alone in its belief that Twitter should do something about the false tweets.

“Seen this photoshopped image go around,” news reporter and anchor Brandon Pope tweeted. “It’s clearly fake, Twitter should take action. Misinformation like this puts people at risk.”

Arlington, Texas, police executive Christopher Cook tweeted, “as a profession, we need to put pressure on [Twitter] to not allow this type of egregious behavior that causes serious community harm and allows misinformation to flourish.”

“It’s remarkable easy to generate fake tweets and create what’s called ‘imposter content misinformation,’” tweeted John C. Silva of the News Literacy Project. “Be extra cautious when encountering screenshots of tweets that hit the emotions on raw issues such as this.”

Other Twitter users weren’t concerned, though.

“Oh, go fuck yourselves,” user @roseisvibing wrote after seeing CPD’s latest tweet about the situation.

“Baby has a full diaper,” @jb_bse tweeted.

And @_PapiAce, whose screenshot of the bogus CPD tweet has garnered millions of impressions, wrote, “I promise you my tweet isn’t any part of the problem why people don’t trust you.”

Twitter’s media relations office did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or comment Monday.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com