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Another fake Pelosi video goes viral on Facebook

A manipulated and widely shared video that depicts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slurring her speech and appearing intoxicated was labeled "partly false" by Facebook over the weekend, renewing scrutiny on social media and its role in reining in misinformation. 

TikTok, Twitter and YouTube all removed the footage from their platforms after CNN inquired about it on Sunday, but it remains on Facebook. The news outlet says the video has been viewed more than 2 million times.

The altered video, which originally appeared on TikTok, originated from a May 20 news conference in which Pelosi addressed President Donald 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 clips speak to the ease by which political disinformation can spread across social media at a time when platforms are under growing pressure to respond.

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%, which is why Pelosi's speech sounds slurred, as well as spliced in a few places.

Facebook's manipulated media 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." It also prohibits those resulting from "artificial intelligence or machine learning" - what's known as "deep fakes."

A Facebook spokesman said they were allowed to remain on the site because they did not violate the platform's policy.

After the earlier incident, the company updated its "policy to make explicit the kind of manipulated media we will remove," spokesman Andy Stone told The Washington Post 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."

Farid said he doesn't understand why Facebook hasn't removed the video.

"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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