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Trump tests disinformation policies with new Pelosi video

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A new video promoted by President Trump is testing the altered media limits put in place at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, offering a provocatively edited version of an incident at the end of the recent State of the Union.

At the close of Tuesday night’s State of the Union, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly tore up her copy of the president’s speech as a symbolic rebuke. The action has incensed Republicans who see it as disrespectful to the people named in the speech, which include a former Tuskegee Airman and a single-mother family whose daughter received a scholarship that night.

But a new video promoted by Trump across multiple channels shows an altered chronology of that event, with Pelosi tearing up the speech in immediate response to individual stories. That’s in line with Republicans’ symbolic argument, but has struck many Democrats as a misleading edit, and a perfect case study for platforms’ newly published policies on altered media.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the clip does not violate its new rules against deepfakes.A Twitter spokesperson noted that the platform’s most recent deepfakes policy does not go into effect until March, and declined to say whether it would apply to the video tweeted by Trump. YouTube said the reposts of the video did not violate the platform’s community guidelines.

Pelosi’s chief of staff, Drew Hammill, responded Friday on Twitter to Trump’s post which has garnered over 3 million views as of publication. “The American people know that the President has no qualms about lying to them – but it is a shame to see Twitter and Facebook, sources of news for millions, do the same,” he said.

Hammill continued, “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.”

Shortly after Hammill made his statement, other House Democrats from Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) fired off their own messages demanding that Twitter remove the “misleading video.”

“Social media platforms are a place where people come for news & information. They need to have certain standards,” Khanna said. “Falsity has never been part of our 1st Amendment tradition.”

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, Facebook and Twitter have published their own policies on deepfakes and edited videos like this Pelosi clip. Facebook’s policy only affects videos that were created by artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms that would “likely mislead” someone. Twitter announced its own rules this week that don’t take effect until March. But its rules state that manipulated media that is “likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm” could be labeled or removed.

Those policies were crafted in part because of deceptively altered video of Pelosi that went viral on social media last year. In May of last year, Trump posted a video of Pelosi that made it appear as though she was slurring her words. That video was posted across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms and quickly racked up millions of views. YouTube promptly removed it, but the video is still available to view on Trump’s Twitter feed. Facebook’s new deepfake policy wouldn’t be cause for it to be removed either.

Updated 2/7/20 at 4:28PM ET: YouTube said the videos did not violate its rules.

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