Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) request that Facebook and Twitter remove an edited video was denied. The video, posted by President Trump, was edited to imply that Pelosi ripped the President’s State of the Union speech in half as he honored Tuskegee airman Charles McGee and other guests. In reality, Pelosi tore the paper copy of the speech in half after the President’s remarks concluded.
The incident highlights a desire for closer regulation of fake or misleading content on social media platforms. Facebook has issued a policy that only applies to AI-generated deepfakes, not conventionally edited videos. Critics have argued that Facebook, as well as other social platforms and tech companies, have a responsibility to enact stricter policies regarding fake content and misinformation.
“The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests,” Drew Hammill, Speaker Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff tweeted.
In response, Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook, tweeted, “Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?”
Hammill again requested that the video be taken down. However, Stone stated that it did not violate Facebook’s policy and would remain on the site. Stone stated, “the reason I was making the point about the fact that the things featured in this video actually happened is because that’s a key element of our policy on content like this.”
Other platforms have taken a different approach. Twitter stated that starting March 5, it would add the label “manipulated media” on manipulated or synthetic videos. Twitter will also warn users before retweeting or liking a tweet with a manipulated video in an effort to lower this type of content circulation on the platform and to inform users what content is manipulated.
The Trump campaign stated that the video was a parody, noting that Pelosi did the ripping, that was not edited. “If Nancy Pelosi fears images of her ripping up the speech, perhaps she shouldn’t have ripped up the speech,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said.
“It’s important for social media sites that have massive reach to make and enforce policies concerning manipulated content, rather than abdicating all responsibility,” Harvard Law Professor Jonathan L. Zittrain said. He noted that this will make sure that everyone is on the same page because “even something that to most people clearly appears to be satire can be taken seriously by others.”
“Historically, we don’t want anybody getting in the way of candidates speaking to the electorate,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, said. “We want the press and the opposing candidates to hold them accountable for deception.”
While Facebook will not remove the State of the Union video, it did remove a video, upon Pelosi’s request, which was edited to depict her eating Tide Pods. The Tide Pod video violated Facebook’s policy against showing people eating the pods over concerns it would encourage others to do the same.