Facebook Refuses to Remove Altered Video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi From Its Platform

Facebook has defended its decision to not remove an altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posted to the social media platform Thursday that has been altered to make it appear that the politician is slurring her speech.

The video of Pelosi speaking Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event in Washington, D.C., which has been purposely slowed down to make her look unwell or potentially drunk, had been viewed more than 2.5 million times as of late Friday, but the social media platform is refusing to remove the clip, saying it doesn’t violate platform guidelines, BuzzFeed News reports.

One of the most-watched versions of the video on Facebook, which was posted by the right-wing page Politics Watch Dog, had been shared more than 47,000 times, according to BuzzFeed News.

Image via Facebook

President Donald Trump waded into the controversy, sharing another edited video of Pelosi that had been altered to show every instance where Pelosi stumbled over her words during the lengthy press conference.

It was during that appearance that Pelosi told the media she believed Trump needed “an intervention.”

Monika Bickert, vice president for product policy and counterterrorism, told CNN on Friday that Facebook would leave the video on the platform since it does not incite violence, but would flag the video as potentially fake news as it had been manipulated.

“Anybody who is seeing this video in News Feed, anybody who has shared it with somebody else, anybody who has shared it in the past is being alerted that this video is false,” Bickert said. “And that's part of the way that we deal with misinformation.”

The video’s prominence in users’ News Feeds would be reduced by the social media company’s algorithms, and a series of “related articles” would now appear alongside the video, The Hill reports.  

“We did enqueue this to fact-checkers for review and as of yesterday evening, one of our fact-checking partners reviewed the video and rated it ‘False,’ so we are now heavily reducing its distribution in News Feed and showing additional context from this fact-checker in the form of a “Related Articles” unit in News Feed where it still appears,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill.

Versions of the doctored video have also appeared across other social media platforms. A YouTube spokesperson told The Washington Post it had removed all versions of the video from its website.

But Pelosi’s colleagues criticized Facebook for leaving the video on its platform.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) denounced Facebook in a tweet Friday, writing, “Facebook is very responsive to my office when I want to talk about federal legislation and suddenly get marbles in their mouths when we ask them about dealing with a fake video. It’s not that they cannot solve this; it’s that they refuse to do what is necessary.”

But the fake Pelosi video is one of many altered videos that experts have been warning about.

Fabrice Pothier, a senior advisor for the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, said that while this video was a cheap one, more advanced videos could be soon be on their way and foreign actors could use those fake videos “to sow distrust and decredibilise their opponents.”

“We are still at a rudimentary stage — the Pelosi video is a basic alteration of an authentic video — but at this pace, it is only a matter of time before fully synthetic video and audio files — deepfakes — generated by algorithm rather than with video editing tools contaminate our information sphere,” Pothier said.

The use of deepfakes in campaigns is “inevitable,” according to John Villasenor, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who says these doctored videos are “going to be a part of the political landscape in the 2020 campaign and beyond.”

Deepfake videos, though, have caught the attention of lawmakers at the federal level.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced a bill at the end of the last Congress that would penalize a person who created or distributed “fraudulent audiovisual records.” However, it is not clear if Sasse plans to reintroduce the bill in this Congress.