Facebook and Twitter declined to take down a modified video posted to U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts on both platforms that creates a questionable mash-up of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s viral speech-ripping moment during the State of the Union address. The dispute with the social networks was made public by Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, who accused the platforms of caring more about their stakeholders’ interests than the public’s interests.
According to CNBC, Pelosi’s office demanded that the video be taken down within hours of it being published on February 6. The video, titled “Powerful American stories ripped to shreds by Nancy Pelosi,” makes it appear as if Pelosi ripped up Trump’s printed speech during critical moments of his State of the Union address, such as when the president recognised a Tuskegee airman in the audience or when he announced a military family reunion.
Pelosi’s office told CNBC that the video was unfair to her given that she actually stood up and applauded the airman during the speech.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2020
The five-minute video showed more than a dozen moments from the State of Union address, each of which was followed by the viral clip of Pelosi ripping up the speech. In fact, Pelosi ripped up the printed version of the speech at the end of the State of the Union, meaning none of the moments in the video were accurate.
As of Saturday, the video had been viewed 6.1 million times on Twitter. Meanwhile, on Facebook, it had 2.7 million views.
“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 stakeholders’ interests than the public’s interests,” Hammill wrote on Twitter.
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 (@Drew_Hammill) February 7, 2020
Andy Stone, policy communications manager at Facebook, answered Hammill on Twitter and questioned his statements about the video.
“Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip up the speech?” Stone tweeted, including a link to Facebook’s policy on manipulated media. “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.”
“What planet are you living on?” Hammill replied. “This is deceptively altered. Take it down.”
Stone told CNBC that the video did not violate Facebook’s policies. He added that the company’s policies against altered video refer to video that has been edited to make it appear that a person said something they didn’t say or do something they didn’t do.
Taking this into account, and considering that Pelosi did not rip up Trump’s speech at any moment shown in the edited video on social media, it is difficult to understand how Facebook can claim that the video does not violate their policies.
Twitter also declined to take down the video under its current rules. However, the company announced a new policy on synthetic and manipulated media this week, which is set to go into effect on March 5. The new policy prohibits the sharing of “synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm” on the social network.
In order to determine whether media content is synthetic or manipulated, Twitter will consider whether content has been substantially edited in a manner that fundamentally alters its composition, sequence, timing or framing. It will also analyse whether the media depicting a real person has been fabricated or simulated, among other criteria. Twitter declined to tell CNBC if the video would violate its new policy, with a spokeswoman saying that she could not “get into hypotheticals.”