The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for May 28th, 2019

Fake Facebook Videos Throughout History

As most people have heard, a slowed-down video of Nancy Pelosi that made her appear drunk or mentally troubled went viral recently. The White House, in what appears to have been a coordinated effort, promulgated the smear that Pelosi was losing her marbles. Facebook refused to remove the video, claiming they’d reduced its distribution, but according to the Root it was still getting comments from confused viewers, and failed to have any fact-checker warnings.

This goes beyond merely inaccurate spin or false “reporting.” Seeing is believing, and manipulated video is about bending reality itself. While the Pelosi video alteration was relatively low-tech, the technology of “deep fakes” — digitally-constructed fake video — is improving, and almost certainly will pose grave Orwellian challenges in the future. Samantha Bee did a good segment on deep fakes for the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” special. It’s worth watching if you want to learn more.

A number of well-meaning people have suggested that it’s not Facebook’s job to remove such content, and who’s to say what is true or false, and there is no absolute rule that would apply to everything, so therefore we can do nothing. This just shows how much norms have been eviscerated. Facebook is a media company profiting off of news delivery. This is a high-profile case of disinformation and character assassination with major political import. You do what any ethical news outlet would do. You apply basic journalistic principles and remove it! Facebook removes plenty of content all the time (let’s just say it has a complicated relationship with the female breast), so it’s not like they don’t interfere already.

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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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