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Facebook labels fake viral video of Nancy Pelosi as ‘partly false’

Clip shows speaker’s speech manipulated to make her sound drunk or drugged

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 03 August 2020 15:09 BST
Mark Zuckerberg says Twitter shouldn't be 'arbiter of truth'

A doctored video of Nancy Pelosi that shows her apparently slurring her words has gone viral on Facebook — but while the platform has attached a “partly false” warning label to the video, it has yet to take it down.

The clip has surfaced just as Facebook faces increasing pressure to crack down harder on misinformation, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently reiterating that he does not want social media platforms to be “arbiters of truth”.

The video, which is still viewable on the platform, is a manipulated excerpt from an on-stage discussion. Ms Pelosi’s speech has been slowed down and pitch-altered to make her appear intoxicated. The clip — versions of which have been removed from Twitter, TikTok and YouTube — remains on Facebook, where it has been viewed millions of times.

This is not the first viral video manipulated to make Ms Pelosi seem cognitively compromised. Donald Trump himself last year shared a segment from Fox News’s Lou Dobbs Tonight that featured an altered video of one of Ms Pelosi’s press conferences, edited to make the speaker appear incoherent and inept.

Captioning the video “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE”, the president’s tweet has never been taken down, nor flagged by Twitter as false or manipulated media.

When that particular doctored video went viral, Ms Pelosi told a California radio station that Facebook’s refusal to take it down proved that the platform was complicit in the sharing of false information — including fake political content promoted by Russian influencers.

“I think they have proven,” she said, “by not taking down something they know is false, that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election”.

While all social media platforms have lately been under pressure to crack down harder on misinformation, Facebook is more inclined to label posts as “false” or “partly false” than to take them down altogether.

Mr Zuckerberg recently made clear at a congressional hearing while that his platform removes content that puts people at risk of harm — including claims that there is a cure for Covid-19 — he sees Facebook’s role in such disputes as relatively limited.

“We do not want to become the arbiters of truth,” he said at the July hearing. “That would be a bad position for us to be in, and not what we should be doing.”

In a statement to CNN on Sunday, a Facebook spokesperson said that the platform’s policy on fake footage was clear: “When a video is determined false, its distribution is dramatically reduced and people who see it, try to share it, or have already shared it, see warnings alerting them that it’s false.”

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