Facebook Vice President Monika Bickert was in the hot seat on Friday as CNN’s Anderson Cooper grilled her about the social media giant’s decision not to delete fake videos of Nancy Pelosi, which were made to look as if she were incoherent and slurring her words.
The videos have made the rounds on social media after Donald Trump attacked the House Speaker this week, using doctored and slowed-down footage of Pelosi to make it look as if she were drunk. The videos were boosted by right-wing media outlets and by many of Trump’s supporters during television appearances, but experts say the videos were faked — and very clearly so.
As the videos continued to spread, many social media outlets took action by deleting them, but Facebook announced that it would not be deleting the videos from its site. As The Guardian reported, the website said it will downgrade the visibility of the videos in news feeds and will attach a third-party fact-checking link noting that the video is misleading, but that it would not be deleting it outright.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The videos of Pelosi remained on the site, attracting millions of views, the report noted. This has angered many, especially after Facebook came under fire for refusing to take action against Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Friday, CNN’s Anderson Cooper held the company’s feet to the fire. In a video posted to YouTube, Cooper pointed out that Facebook had vowed to fight misinformation after the 2016 election, but did not appear to be following through.
Bickert said that the site had dramatically reduced the distribution of the video, but said they wanted people to make their own choices about what to believe. She also said that the site was trying to give people accurate information to inform their decision but Cooper pushed back, noting that the videos were not accurate.
Facebook said that a video doctored to depict Nancy Pelosi slurring her words will remain on the site because false info alone does not violate their rules: “We don't have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true.” https://t.co/86mpk7dicz
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) May 24, 2019
Critics have pushed back against the use of the doctored videos of Nancy Pelosi, and especially the efforts from Trump’s own team to promote them. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, posted a link to one of the videos, and Trump himself retweeted one of the doctored videos.