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Facebook defends decision to leave up fake Pelosi video, saying it has no policy that posts must be 'true'

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Facebook agrees with fact checkers that a viral video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking is fake, selectively edited to make her appear to be drunkenly slurring her words. But despite it being posted to Facebook, where it has been viewed over 2 million times, the social media giant defended its decision to not delete the video even though it isn’t true.

On Friday, Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, when grilled by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about why the video has not been deleted, stood by the company’s decision, which is based on the lack of “a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true.”

Cooper asked Bickert, “In the wake of the 2016 election, obviously, Facebook has repeatedly told Congress and the American people that you’re serious about fighting disinformation and fake news, yet this doctored video that I think your own fact checkers acknowledged is doctored of Speaker Pelosi remains on your platform. Why?”

“Anybody who is seeing this video in news feed, anyone who is going to share it to somebody else, anybody who has shared it in the past, they are being alerted that this video is false,” Bickert responded.

“And this is part of the way that we deal with misinformation,” she continued. “We work with internationally certified fact-checking organizations that are independent from Facebook, and we think these are the right organizations to be making decisions about whether something is true or false.”

Bickert added: “As soon as we get a rating from them that content is false, then we dramatically reduce the distribution of that content.”

“Why keep it up though?” Cooper pressed.

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES - 2019/05/22: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaking at The Center for American Progress CAP 2019 Ideas Conference. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We think it’s important for people to make their own informed choice about what to believe,” said Bickert, who said Facebook is actively telling users that the video is fake even though it won’t take it down. “Our job is to make sure we are getting them accurate information.”

The social media platform, Bickert added, isn’t “in the news business.”

“We aren’t in the news business. We’re in the social media business,” Bickert countered Cooper, who insisted that Facebook is “making money by being in the news business.”

“Well, you are in the news business,” Cooper said. “The reason you’re sharing news is because you make money from it. It keeps people watching you and more involved in your site, which I get, and that’s fair. But if you’re in the news business, which you are, you’ve got to do it right, and this is false information you are spreading.”

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to the Guardian, “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.”

YouTube, unlike Facebook, removed the videos because they violated “clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post.” The video has sent an ominous warning about fighting AI-enhanced online disinformation in the 2020 election, in which deep fake technology threatens to mischaracterize politicians.

President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani are among the millions who viewed or shared deliberately edited videos of Pelosi, D-Calif. While Giuliani posted then deleted the doctored video — and offered a botched apology for sharing the altered clip — Trump separately posted to Twitter a compilation of videos of Pelosi speaking that had been spliced together by Fox Business. “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE,” he captioned it.

Hillary Clinton condemned Trump’s actions in a speech in Houston Friday.

“The president and his cronies have been running around spreading a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi,” she said. “Now, it is sexist trash. But it is also a sign that Trump is running scared.”

Pelosi’s daughter also blasted the GOP for its role in spreading the video.

“Republicans and their conservative allies have been pumping this despicable fake meme for years! Now they are caught,” wrote Christine Pelosi on Twitter Thursday. She included a “fact check” that “Madam Speaker doesn’t even drink alcohol!”

In defense against claims that it was spreading fake news, the Facebook page Politics WastchDog, which posted the viral video, wrote, “Just for the record we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country.”


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