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The Backstory on the Altered Acosta Video
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49510"><span class="small">Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker</span></a>   
Friday, 09 November 2018 13:44

Rothman writes: "For all its crudeness, the video gives us a glimpse of the future. In the coming years, as technology advances, we'll have good reason to grow more skeptical about the videos we see."

CNN's Jim Acosta. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
CNN's Jim Acosta. (photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Backstory on the Altered Acosta Video

By Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker

09 November 18


n Wednesday, the White House revoked the press pass of the CNN reporter Jim Acosta. To justify the decision, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, cited a moment of physical contact between Acosta and a White House intern at a press conference earlier that day. After Acosta challenged President Trump about his description of a caravan of migrants as an “invasion,” the intern attempted to take away Acosta’s microphone; as he shielded it, his hand touched her arm. The Trump Administration, Sanders wrote, in a tweet, will “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.”

Then, around ten-thirty that evening, Sanders shared, in another tweet, an edited video of Acosta. It focusses on the moment of contact, in which Acosta’s hand appears to strike the intern’s arm in a chop-like motion. “We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” Sanders wrote. Shortly afterward, observers online began to point out that, in certain sections, its speed seemed to have been modified in a manner that exaggerated the forcefulness of the contact. The video, moreover, turned out to have originated from the Twitter account of Paul Joseph Watson, a contributor to the far-right site Infowars. Instead of retweeting Watson, Sanders, or someone handling her Twitter feed, had downloaded and re-uploaded the video, obscuring its source. The White House, in short, used a questionable video from a conspiracy Web site to justify banning a member of the press.

I e-mailed Hany Farid, an expert in digital-image forensics, to ask him whether the video had been altered. He replied with the results of his analysis. Parts of the video, he wrote, had been slowed down compared to the clip that aired on television. It was also blurrier. The loops had been added. Finally, there were a few repeated frames, which occurred just at the moment Acosta’s hand touched the intern’s arm. In a conversation with BuzzFeed, Watson denied deliberately slowing down, speeding up, or blurring the video; instead, he said, he’d simply downloaded an animated GIF image from the Twitter account of Farid confirmed that the repeated frames, the blurriness, and the slowdown, which helped “make the video more dramatic,” could all have been unintended results of “transcoding” the video, or converting it into and out of the GIF format.

A bigger issue, Farid pointed out, was non-technical: the camera angle. “If you look at original, higher-quality videos from other vantage points,” he wrote, “you can more clearly see that while there was some contact between the reporter and intern, he did not strike her as his hand comes down.” The perspective, coupled with the blurriness of the image—which makes it hard to discern where Acosta’s hand ends and the intern’s arm begins—create the impression that their contact was more substantive than it was. Farid concluded that the video Sanders shared was “misleading.” At the same time, he wrote, “I don’t see unambiguous evidence that it has been doctored.”

For this week’s issue of The New Yorker, I reported on the creation and detection of computer-generated, or “synthesized,” videos. This video is not one of them. As Farid and others have noted, it is misleading in a relatively ordinary, even old-fashioned, way. The most consequential act of manipulation committed by Sanders may have been her failure to attribute the clip to Infowars. And yet, for all its crudeness, the video gives us a glimpse of the future. In the coming years, as technology advances, we’ll have good reason to grow more skeptical about the videos we see. At the same time, we will struggle to make use of that skepticism. We will disagree about what words such as “doctored,” “manipulated,” and “faked” really mean (and videos can be misleading, of course, without having been altered at all). We will tumble down technical rabbit holes, arguing endlessly about image artifacts and compression algorithms, in debates that become their own distractions. To be destructive, videos don’t have to be perfectly or ingeniously manipulated; they need only present what Kellyanne Conway, the counsellor to the President, once called “alternative facts,” serving as evidence for one group and evidence of mendacity for another.

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+15 # DongiC 2018-11-09 17:06
Lies both audial and visual become the order of the day. Truth is routed and put to scorn. What kind of evil age are we entering? Is it, as Princess Kelly Anne Conway would have it, an alternate universe? And, what diabolic creature is in charge? Whom does King Donald really serve? The Devil you say! Time for the second Messiah to make an appearance. Battle stations all people of good faith.
+3 # economagic 2018-11-10 09:27
"Time for the second Messiah to make an appearance. Battle stations all people of good faith."

Precisely what the evangelicals that make up a significant portion of T-Rump's base have been salivating over for fifty years.

Otherwise, shades of W. B. Yeats!
+8 # Texas Aggie 2018-11-10 08:18
You keep seeing this bit about maybe, possibly, perhaps, by chance, the change in the video was a product of some totally innocent event connected with downloading it. Baloney! As HD Thoreau once said, "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk."
+3 # Benign Observer 2018-11-10 10:58
Let's also talk about how the vaunted reporter wasted an opportunity to ask the president about something important but instead performed theater so he could bait an answer that would play well on CNN.

When is the last time Trump was asked about what we're doing in Yemen?

And now the msm pundits are devoting a ton of time talking about Jim Acosta and Trump's relationship to the press, which I couldn't give a shit about. Trump and the press have a disgusting mutual relationship -- they love and hate each other. We're stuck watching a televised circle jerk and still do not have actual journalists doing their duty.
+8 # kapakahi 2018-11-10 13:34
This has been the story of the Sociopath and the Media from Day One of his campaign: What's he gonna do next? Whatever it is, it'll be the lead story because it's always so outrageous and unusual for a president and people will watch it over and over and that sells ads! So yeah, leave the camera focused on the runway, waiting for his plane to land, waiting for him to get off the plane, even if it's 15 minutes late, or more, and fill the empty space with inane journospeak. Make sure you catch him calling people names, get the shots of his mob scenes. Whatever you do, don't waste precious TV time or newspaper space or online bytes with anything of any real importance, and even if something real should come up, make sure to repeat only the outrageous quotes. It's great optics and sound bites!

And that's how the media have let the sociopath manipulate them, set the agenda, wrap them around his teeny tiny little finger. And after all this time, they still have no clue that they're being played for fools. They're even dumber than the sociopath, and that's a very low bar.
-1 # Benign Observer 2018-11-10 11:26
Doesn't the expert says it's unclear if this was doctored? Why is this even a story? Why is the prima donna media making themselves the story for the thousandth time?

Jimmy Dore makes good points about this: 1) integrity-laden CNN hired Corey Lewandowski, 2) CBS' Les Moonves said, 'Trump is bad for America but great for CBS', 3) the msm doesn't defend Julian Assange, and didn't fight Obama's using the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers, 4) at one point last year when Trump told the WH press corps to turn off their cameras -- they did!

This is a bullshit circus, theater between two rotten entities not doing their jobs.

Michael Tracey of TYT: 'Jim Acosta asks unintelligent questions but happens to annoy Trump, so has been anointed a journalistic hero ... He's pantomiming journalism to create soundbites for entertainment purposes.'

I'll defend the free press when we have one.
+4 # Allears 2018-11-11 11:33
How symbolic: if you don't like the obvious answer to a question and you don't want to voice the answer (which everyone knows anyway) disarm the reporter, i.e., take away his microphone. As if it were that only through this one microphone could this question be asked. Why didn't the next person with a microphone ask the same question, and the next and the next, until the symbolism or removing microphones would even be revealed to the throttler in chief? Come on media, use the collective
power of silence!
0 # Michaeljohn 2018-11-11 16:18
Ratings, ratings, ratings folks ! Ratings equals income. A media company that did good honest subjects-that-m atter reporting wouldn't last 6 months because the brainwashed vidiots who create the ratings and crave more and more theater would find real news incomprehensibl e and totally boring. Trump IS their reality....God save us all ....