NDP MP raps Conservative over ‘fake news’ video

Click to play video: 'Conservative MP pushes boundaries with fake news video'
Conservative MP pushes boundaries with fake news video
New Democrats say they are planning to ask the House of Commons Ethics Committee to include a video by a Conservative MP as part of an ongoing study into the impact of disinformation on Canadian politics. Manitoba MP Branden Leslie distributed a video on his social media accounts titled, "Breaking News: Trudeau resigns." It contains doctored television news clips mixed with real and out-of-context news. As David Akin reports, experts say it pushes the boundaries of political messaging – May 24, 2024

NDP MP Matthew Green says Conservative MP Branden Leslie should apologize for a video published on Leslie’s social media accounts that mixes clips from television newscasts with doctored clips and out-of-context clips.

It ought to be absolutely unacceptable,” Green said. “And and there should be an ethical consensus amongst parties that we will not partake in this type of misinformation and disinformation.”

Green is a member of the House of Commons standing committee on ethics, access to information and privacy, which is in the midst of a study of the effects of misinformation and disinformation on parliamentarians. He said he would ask the committee to consider Leslie’s video as part of its deliberations.

The four-minute-long video is a critique, narrated by Leslie, of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legacy. It imagines a day when Trudeau has resigned and, to use Leslie’s phrase, “the media … fawn all over him” and his legacy.

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But in making that point, the producers of the video use the logo, screen layout and design of both CTV and CBC newscasts with fake headlines and other text imposed on top. One sequence uses what looks like a few seconds recorded from CTV News Channel with the headline “Justin Trudeau Resigns as Prime Minister” and the sub-headline “Concludes historic 10-year mission to destroy Canada.” Another sequence that looks like it might be recorded from a CBC News broadcast contains a similar headline.

The Leslie video also includes an excerpt of CBC journalist Rosemary Barton interviewing Mark Carney with a sub-headline that reads: “Mark Carney explains why foie gras is so crucial to his morning routine.”

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No such sequences ever aired on either CTV or CBC and, in a brief interview Thursday, Leslie said that would be apparent to any viewer of the video.

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“I don’t think anybody thinks that I’m the guy that’s going to break the news the prime minister has resigned,” Leslie said. “I think Canadians are very smart.”

Fred Delorey, who was the Conservative national campaign director for the 2021 general election, agreed with Leslie’s assessment.

The crux of the message was, ‘What will Trudeau’s legacy be when he leaves?’ And if you look at the video, I don’t think any reasonable person will think this is a real news story,” DeLorey said. ” I don’t think it crosses any lines where it’s fake news or any kind of story that people will think this is actually real.”

A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, Sebastian Skamski, said in a written statement: “There is nothing misleading about the video and any suggestion to the contrary is profoundly ridiculous. Any attempt to suggest this is a controversy would be entirely contrived.”

But Green, the New Democrat, sees it differently.

That is precisely (conspiracy theorist and Infowars host) Alex Jones’s defence. That is precisely the defence of this kind of conspiratorial machine that has been cooked up on the far right, that is absolutely flooding the zone with political garbage that becomes very difficult for people to discern. To use that defence insults the intelligence of people watching,” Green said.

“I would call on this MP to delete it and apologize and I would call on all political leaders to make a commitment today to Canadians that in this upcoming election cycle and the cycles beyond that, we will not be partaking in this type of manipulation and fake news.”

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Researcher Marcus Kolga leads the DisinfoWatch project, which tracks disinformation campaigns, and said the techniques Leslie used are not suitable for a member of Canada’s Parliament.

“They’re pushing the boundaries here,” Kolga said. “This is the first instance of this sort of content that I’ve seen produced or published by a member of Parliament in Canada. I’ve not seen anything like this before. Ultimately, because of their role as a member of Parliament, the trust that they have in their constituents, that could lead to the unfortunate incident where they do mislead constituents and any viewers of that content.”

Christopher Waddell, professor emeritus at Carleton University’s journalism school, took issue not only with the technique but also the scripting of the entire video.

“Politicians shouldn’t be distorting and misrepresenting the facts and the truth, and they should at least be willing to admit to facts,” Waddell said. “And this video doesn’t contain any facts. So by itself, just by doing that, it misrepresents issues. It’s obviously taking the work that journalists do and and using the model and the formats that journalists use to try to spread things that aren’t true.”

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CBC’s public affairs chief Chuck Thompson declined comment on the social media post in question but said in statement, “We are aware of a disturbing increase of false ads and news stories claiming to be from, or endorsed by, CBC or CBC hosts. We are working to curb this alarming trend and to remove any false or inappropriate posts from CBC platforms, as well as other social spaces.” A CTV spokesperson, Christy Sullivan, said, “We are concerned by any instance in which our logos and branding are used outside of our legitimate news coverage. When this happens we take appropriate steps to address the matter, consistent with our commitment to maintain the integrity of news in Canada.”

  • with files from Sophall Duch

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