Social media platforms talk a big game about fighting fake news. So why are they apparently refusing to remove a doctored video from the State of the Union?
Technology makes it easier to create a doctored video. For that matter, technology makes it harder to detect that doctoring.
President Donald Trump recently shared a video showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tearing up his State of the Union Address.
If you watched the speech that night live, you saw Pelosi rip up Trump’s address after it was over. But the video shows her ripping it up during the speech. Specifically, the video shows her tearing the pages as Trump introduces one of the last living Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.
Trump claimed that Pelosi was ripping up stories of real Americans in the gesture. The video, which changes the timeline of her action, is surely meant to reinforce that point.
The fact that she ripped up the speech was bad enough. But if she had actually done so at that moment, it would have been worse.
But that’s not what happened.
Trump surely knows that. Whoever took the effort to doctor the video obviously did as well.
So what about all that talk of battling ‘fake news?’
Facebook refused to remove a doctored video before. They also used the defense that posts don’t have to be true.
But Facebook talks a big game when it comes to how much it “cares about journalism.” They post tips about how to avoid “false news.” They claim that false news is “harmful” to the community and that they’re working on building better tools to allow people to report it.
Likewise, Twitter claimed it has shut down thousands of fake news accounts. And last June, it bought a U.K.-based artificial intelligence company to help it crack down on fake news.
These efforts are, for the most part, theoretical. When a post goes up, these efforts will work to determine how authentic the post is. If all goes well, information that is false will at least be flagged as such.
Anyone who watched the speech knows the video has been edited. A national audience saw the live broadcast.
You don’t have to employ elaborate fact-checking to know the video was edited.
They either want to “crack down” on “false news” or they don’t.
If they won’t take down a video that’s blatantly false, they don’t.
It really is as simple as that.
Some might argue that a valid reason they shouldn’t take down the video is that it’s important to see who’s sharing obviously-false information. In this case, those folks might argue that if the president willingly shares false information, that should say something about his character.
All too often in the world of politics, however, it doesn’t. A politician’s supporters — no matter which party they belong to — don’t care to take time to fact-check. If their favorite politico shares it, then it must be true, even if it isn’t.
When it’s so easy to create falsehoods and social media platforms claim they want to stop them, it’s about time they follow through.