Trump Campaign Uses Filter on Joe Biden Photo to Make Him Look Older in Facebook Ads

Facebook advertising from Donald Trump's election campaign appears to be spreading a manipulated image of political rival Joe Biden.

As the president continues to fixate on his opponent's health, an active ad on the social network launched yesterday that used a picture of the candidate edited to make him look older, with his skin appearing unhealthier and showing darker blemishes.

The ad appears to be focused on data-collection, urging Facebook users to fill out a poll claiming the "fake news media will never report accurately on his [Trump's] standings in the polls against Sleepy Joe," using a frequent nickname for his opponent.

The Trump campaign told The Huffington Post that it had applied a filter to the picture of Biden but declined to say why. According to Facebook's ad directory, messaging that ended September 3 used the unedited version, showing Biden with clearer skin.

The 2020 Trump campaign has been contacted for comment.

Throughout his political campaigning so far, Trump, 74, has repeatedly chosen to focus on the health and mental wellbeing of Biden, who is 77.

Speaking at an event in Pennsylvania yesterday, Politico reported that Trump homed in on Biden's preference of wearing a mask amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. "Have you ever seen a man who likes a mask as much as him?" he said. "It gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist, I'd say this guy has got some big issues."

Speaking from the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe city, Trump also referenced speculation that he himself had suffered "mini-strokes," asserting the media spread the false claim because "they want to try and get me to be on Biden's physical level."

It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate - FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020

On September 1, the Trump campaign addressed speculation about a medical condition raised by ex Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, who had asked: "Did @realDonaldTrump have a stroke which he is hiding from the American public?"

The Trump campaign hit back: "Lockhart single-handedly sank the John Kerry campaign and now he's doing the same to Joe Biden from a distance."

On Twitter Thursday, reacting to Trump's mask comment, Biden posted an image of himself with a face covering, writing: "The President has a duty to set an example."

The President has a duty to set an example.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 4, 2020

In recent days, there have been multiple instances of the Trump campaign uploading manipulated media to its followers across mainstream social media. On Sunday, the White House director of social media Dan Scavino tweeted a video that claimed to show Biden falling asleep during a TV interview. It was fake, quickly traced back to an interview from 2011 with musician and actor Harry Belafonte.

The footage has since been removed by Twitter in response to a copyright complaint. Belafonte told The New York Times: "They keep stooping lower and lower. A technical glitch in an interview I did nine years ago now becomes another one of their lies, more of their fake news. I beg every sane American—please vote them out."

On Monday, a deceptive post from the Trump campaign's "War Room" Twitter account was flagged by the platform and labeled as containing "manipulated media."

The brief clip showed Biden saying "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America!" without context, and the War Room account was unapologetic for posting it.

To all the triggered journalists who can't take a joke about their candidate, it's not our fault Joe Biden was dumb enough to say this on camera.

— Trump War Room - Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) August 31, 2020

In the real version, Biden had been mimicking quotes from president Trump and vice president Mike Pence. "'You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America.' And what's their proof? The violence we're seeing in Donald Trump's America," he actually said.

Facebook's Ad Library tool maintains a record of political advertising, although the site does not typically fact check messaging paid for by U.S. elected officials.

"We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year.

The billionaire social media boss said this week the platform would, however, block new political and issue ads during the final week of 2020 election campaigning. "It's important that campaigns can run get out the vote campaigns, and I generally believe the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims," he said.

"In the week before the election, we won't accept new political or issue ads. Advertisers will be able to continue running ads they started running before the final week and adjust the targeting for those ads, but those ads will already be published transparently in our Ads Library so anyone, including fact-checkers... can scrutinize them."

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a campaign event at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on September 3, 2020. The president's 2020 campaign team has used edited photos of Joe Biden in a Facebook ad. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty