The altered video, which originally appeared on TikTok, originated from a May 20 news conference in which Pelosi addressed President Trump’s tweets about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. A user posted it on Facebook on Thursday evening with the caption, “This is unbelievable, she is blowed out of her mind, I bet this gets taken down!”
Facebook’s independent fact-checker, Lead Stories, assessed the video as “partly false” on Sunday and added the fact-check to the video on the platform. By Monday, the platform’s users had shared the video more than 91,000 times, and Facebook said it alerted users who had shared it before its warning label.
Pelosi was similarly depicted slurring her words in a May 2019 clip. In that incident, analyses by The Post and outside researchers revealed how the widely circulated video of Pelosi delivering a speech was slowed down 75 percent. And in 2018, a conservative YouTube channel with more than 1 million subscribers posted a video titled “IS SHE DRUNK?!?!,” accusing Pelosi of “fumbling” her speech during a news conference.
The speaker criticized Facebook for not removing the clip at the time of the 2019 incident. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on new video.
The distorted videos speak to larger conversations regarding the ease by which political disinformation can spread across social media and what responsibility those platforms have in moderating falsity.
TikTok’s internal system, which detects video duplicates, had flagged the latest video as spam and limited its reach on the platform. But once contacted by CNN, the platform removed the footage for violating its “synthetic media policy,” the company said in a statement.
“Our users value seeing authentic content on TikTok, and we do too, which is why we remove harmful misleading and deceptive content as we become aware of it,” the platform’s statement said.
Hany Farid, a visual forensic expert and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said the original video appears to have been slowed down by about 75 percent, which is why Pelosi’s speech sounds slurred, as well as spliced in a few places to shorten the video.
Facebook’s manipulated media policy notes that, “Media, including image, audio, or video, can be edited in a variety of ways. In many cases, these changes are benign, like a filter effect on a photo. In other cases, the manipulation isn’t apparent and could mislead, particularly in the case of video content. We aim to remove this category of manipulated media when the criteria laid out below have been met.”
The policy disallows videos that have been “edited or synthesized, beyond adjustments for clarity or quality, in ways that are not apparent to an average person, and would likely mislead an average person to believe that a subject of the video said words that they did not say,” and are the “product of artificial intelligence or machine learning, including deep learning techniques (e.g., a technical deepfake), that merges, combines, replaces, and/or superimposes content onto a video, creating a video that appears authentic.”
The two Pelosi videos are similarly manipulated, Farid said. A Facebook spokesman said they were allowed to remain on the site because they did not violate the platform’s policy.
“Following an incident over a year ago with a previous video of Speaker Pelosi, we took a number of key steps, making it very clear to people on Facebook when a third-party fact-checker determines content to be false and updating our policy to make explicit the kind of manipulated media we will remove,” spokesman Andy Stone said in an email. “And, as always, 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.”
Even though the video is likely not produced by artificial intelligence or machine learning, Farid said, he doesn’t understand why Facebook hasn’t removed the video, based on the platform’s terms of service.
“I find it bizarre, however, that Facebook would have a policy against manipulated media, against misleading content, but then very narrowly defines the means by which a video should have been created before rising to the level of having it removed,” Farid said in an email. “This video of Speaker Pelosi is clearly manipulated, it clearly is not satire or parody, and it is clearly designed to impugn her.”
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