Donald Trump posts misleading Facebook advert using 2014 Ukraine photo

22 July 2020, 17:55

The pro-Trump campaign ad was shared on the president's official Facebook page
The pro-Trump campaign ad was shared on the president's official Facebook page. Picture: Donald Trump's Facebook page
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Donald Trump's official Facebook account has posted a picture that appears to show violence in the US, but is in fact from an event in Ukraine in 2014.

The 'Evangelicals for Trump' advert shows a calm picture of the US President speaking with police officers on the left-hand side, with a contrasting image to its right showing a violent scene involving an officer on the ground surrounded by protesters.

In bold writing below it says: "Public safety vs chaos and violence."

However, the picture on the right is actually from a pro-democracy protest in Ukraine in 2014.

It appears alongside the caption: "Evangelicals For Trump are ready to help re-elect President Donald J Trump."

The campaign ad was posted on Tuesday but the image in question was confirmed as being posted on Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia's public-domain media archive, in 2014.

Facebook has confirmed an investigation has been launched into the matter.

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The advert in question purports to show violence in the US, but is in fact from Ukraine
The advert in question purports to show violence in the US, but is in fact from Ukraine. Picture: Donald Trump's Facebook page

It was labelled: "A police officer attacked by protesters during clashes in Ukraine, Kyiv. Events of February 18, 2014."

The photographer who snapped it, Mstyslav Chernov, confirmed to Business Insider that it was his image.

"Photography has always been used to manipulate public opinion. And with the rise of social media and the rise of populism, this is happening even more," he said.

"The only way to combat this is through education and media literacy. When people learn to independently distinguish truth from lies, then the number of manipulations will decrease."

The image in question shows an officer with a badge on his shoulder that does not appear on US police uniforms. Instead, it is a Coptic cross that appears in countries which practice Orthodox Christianity.

It was worn by members of the since-disbanded "Internal Troops of Ukraine" who clashed with demonstrators when the country's government was overthrown in 2014.

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A former spokesman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Jesse Lehrich, took to Twitter to ridicule the post, simply writing: "LOL"

He added: "A new Trump ad warning of chaos & violence depicts a cop being attacked by protesters...

"...only it's a pic from Kyiv in 2014, when Yanukovich's thugs fought to quash a democratic uprising."

Facebook's advertising archive says the ad has run three times since it was originally posted on Tuesday, alongside captions that aim to appeal to US evangelicals.

Mr Trump's Facebook page has more than 30 million followers but the ad has largely reached the accounts of people in Florida and Texas who are older than 55, according to Facebook’s estimates.

Social media companies Facebook and Twitter have taken steps in recent months to label posts by public officials, with the former labelling posts on the pages of both the president and his opposite man Joe Biden, with links to official information.

The Trump campaign has not responded to requests for comment.