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18 Jun 2019 4:36
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  •   Home > News > International

    Nancy Pelosi speech manipulated to make her appear 'drunk' does not violate Facebook rules

    Doctored footage of the US House Speaker has been deemed "false" by Facebook fact-checkers but it will only be demoted from the News Feed, rather than being pulled from the platform.

    Facebook will not delete a video of Nancy Pelosi edited to make her sound as if she was slurring her words but says the clip, which has been viewed millions of times, has been demoted from the News Feed.

    The altered clip features Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker and top Democrat, describing a tense meeting with President Donald Trump at a Center for American Progress event on Wednesday.

    Versions of the doctored video spread widely across social media, even shared by Mr Trump's attorney Rudolph Giuliani in a since-deleted tweet.

    One version of the clip, posted to the Politics WatchDog Facebook page, had been viewed more than 2.3 million times by Friday afternoon.

    A number of commenters on that page accused Ms Pelosi of being "drunk", a "babbling mess" and possibly under the influence of drugs.

    A Facebook spokesperson told the ABC the video was not being removed; however, steps were taken to stop it from spreading.

    "In this particular case, this video was eligible for fact-checking and sent to one of our third-party fact-checking partners who rated it as 'false'," the spokesperson said.

    "As a result, the content has been significantly demoted in News Feed."

    As of Friday afternoon, the clip shared by Politics WatchDog had already been shared nearly 47,000 times.

    According to a report from The Washington Post, the clip was slowed to roughly 75 per cent, with researchers suggesting the pitch was modified to correct the deep tone that would result from the speed change.

    "There is no question that the video has been slowed to alter Pelosi's voice," University of California's digital-forensics expert Hany Farid told the newspaper.

    "This type of low-tech fake shows that there is a larger threat of misinformation campaigns — too many of us are willing to believe the worst in people that we disagree with."

    Not every Facebook post has to be true

    A Facebook spokesperson told the ABC the social media platform can remove posts that violate community standards, but it appears there is a limit to what the company will do.

    "We don't have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true," he said.

    "There's a tension here: we work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free expression and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that reducing the distribution of inauthentic content strikes that balance.

    "But just because something is allowed to be on Facebook doesn't mean it should get distribution.

    "In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we're not going to show it at the top of News Feed."

    Pulled from YouTube

    Similar versions of Ms Pelosi's speech were removed from YouTube on Thursday, CNN reported.

    A YouTube spokesperson said the videos violated YouTube's company policies.

    "YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us," they told CNN.

    It is unclear which specific policy the videos violated; however, in January YouTube pledged to take action against videos that spread misinformation.

    "We'll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways," a YouTube blog post read.

    'It's a free country'

    Administrators of the Politics WatchDog Facebook page addressed the controversy by running a poll to determine if they should remove the clip, lashing out at Facebook's fact-checkers and The Washington Post.

    "Just for the record we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk," one post read.

    "We can't control what the people in the comments think.

    "It's a free country.

    "Independent fact checkers that Facebook uses are pro-liberal and funded by the left.

    "We're not a conservative news page but since the fake news Washington Post tagged us as such it made it easy for this independent fact checker to come after us."

    Administrators kept the video up, citing their poll, in which followers voted in favour of the clip, as the reason it remained on Facebook.

    What should social media platforms do?

    Earlier this month, Professor Farid partnered up with Facebook to address the dissemination of falsified content.

    He called on social media platforms to create strict guidelines.

    "What matters most, if you are going to govern speech on the site, is to have clear, unambiguous rules," he told Berkley News.

    "There needs to be transparency and consistency in how the rules are enforced.

    "The problem now is that the rules are vague, inconsistent and not consistently enforced."

    He also wants to see more people hired to monitor Facebook, something he suggested would be offset by charging users a nominal fee.

    Professor Farid said this would force users to identify themselves, making them easier to target for illegal behaviour.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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