The Slatest

Facebook, Twitter Refuse to Delete Edited Video Posted by Trump of Pelosi Ripping Speech

Nancy Pelosi, standing behind Donald Trump, rips apart some sheets of paper.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi rips a copy of President Donald Trump’s speech after the State of the Union address, at the Capitol on Feb. 4, 2020.
Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Facebook and Twitter are on the receiving end of lots of criticism from Democrats after they rejected a request by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove a video posted by President Donald Trump. The edited video makes it look as if Pelosi ripped up the president’s State of the Union address when he honored a Tuskegee airman and other guests. In reality, Pelosi ripped the speech at the end of the annual address.

The edited video, posted on Thursday under the title “Powerful American stories ripped to shreds by Nancy Pelosi,” once again sparked a debate about what kind of manipulated content should be allowed on social media. And it shone a spotlight on the differences of opinion between those who say social networks should do more to prevent their platforms from being used to spread misinformation and those who insist political speech should be protected even if it’s deceptive.

The dispute between Pelosi and the social networks became public Friday when Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, wrote on Twitter that the video is “designed to mislead and lie” and the refusal to take it down “is another reminder” that the social networks “care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests.” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, responded: “Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech?” He then elaborated in a subsequent tweet saying that whether the events depicted in the video actually happened is key to deciding whether it should be taken down.

The Facebook policy states that “manipulated media” will be removed if “it has been edited or synthesized … in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say.” Twitter said that new rules that are coming into effect on March 5 would attach a label that reads “manipulated media” on material that is heavily edited. Under its current rules though Twitter said it would not delete Trump’s video. “We won’t begin labeling or enforcement action until March 5, 2020, so I can’t get into hypotheticals,” a Twitter spokeswoman said.

Trump’s campaign scoffed at the call to take down the video, saying it is obviously a parody. “If Nancy Pelosi fears images of her ripping up the speech, perhaps she shouldn’t have ripped up the speech,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said.