Leadership at Facebook is facing criticism again for their response to what experts say was a “doctored” video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring her words during an interview.
According to CNN, a group called Politics WatchDog first posted the video to the social media site on May 22. The next day, one of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking companies, LeadStories, published a report concluding that the video was actually slowed down and manipulated to make it seem as though Pelosi was impaired. While false and inaccurate, the video, according to Facebook, does not violate their community standards—a set of guidelines the company implemented over the last few years to regulate the type of content posted to its site.
During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Facebook’s Monika Bickert, VP for Product Policy and Counterterrorism, said the video will remain on the site with what she calls a “dramatic reduction in distribution” because it does not violate their standards or promote violence. Those who see or plan to share the video will be notified that it has been determined to be false, she added.
“If there is a threat of safety—if we’re talking about terror propaganda—that’s something where we can actually assess that on its face and say ‘yes, that’s terror propaganda,’ and we can pull that down,” Bickert said. “When we’re talking about political discourse and misinformation around that, we think the right approach is to let people make an informed choice. Our job is to make sure we’re getting them accurate information.”
A ‘Can-of-Worms’ Problem
According to Johnson & Wales University professor Wendy Wagner, Ph.D., the issue of whether or not social media outlets should regulate news that is proven to be fake is a complex one.
“The problem social networks and media platforms face is that there is an issue of legal responsibility and an issue of ethical responsibility,” she explained. “Social media platforms do not want to be subjected to legal responsibility for false content because it opens up a can of worms.”
Wagner, who moderated a panel discussion on fake news in the media last month at JWU’s Providence campus, said it all depends on how news is determined to be fake. “Who decides what is false? Can every social media user be monitored for truthfulness?” she questioned. “We have to reach a consensus about what the social media platforms are. Are they the paper on which books and newspapers are published, or are they the institutions that pick and choose which books and newspapers are published?”
Wagner said she fears there is no simple solution to the problem of social media networks distributing false content. “Social media networks have an ethical responsibility to do what they can to contribute to the dissemination of truth, but there are limits to what they can do. Gossip and interpretation of the news has never been regulated. People are allowed to have opinions,” she said, wondering where Facebook or other social media networks fall on the spectrum between news and gossip.
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