A fake video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, slowed down to make her appear drunk, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on Facebook. It has been shared nearly 50,000 times, with thousands of comments.
But as far as Facebook is concerned, the video does not violate any community guidelines, and is fine to continue on their platform.
According to The Guardian, which first reported Facebook’s response, the social media giant viewed the video as a form of “self-expression” and therefore would be allowed to remain on the platform. However, a spokesperson said it would downgrade the video to limit the number of users who viewed it and said it would “attach a link to a third-party fact checking site pointing out that the clip is misleading.”
“Just because something is allowed to be on Facebook doesn’t mean it should get distribution,” the company said. “In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”
Politics WatchDog, the Conservative Facebook page which shared the video, similarly washed its hands of the content, claiming on its page that it had never actually claimed that Pelosi was drunk. “We can’t control what the people in the comments think,” Politics WatchDog said. “It’s a free country.”
Facebook’s response to the Pelosi video controversy echoes a long and infuriating insistence on CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s part that Facebook isn’t a media company and therefore isn’t responsible for the content on its site — despite more than forty percent of Americans getting their news from Facebook. “I consider us to be a technology company,” Zuckerberg said when testifying on Capitol Hill last April. “The primary thing that we do is have engineers who write code and built product and services for other people.”
The social media giant has made some sweeping changes in reaction to a series of scandals over the past few years, notably the revelation that Russia used the site to sow misinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Following the Christchurch mass shootings in March, during which a far-right extremist used Facebook to livestream his attacks on two mosques, Facebook instituted more changes, banning content related to white nationalism and white separatism while also tightening live-streaming rules.
But when content is less immediately harmful but still malicious, as is the case with the Pelosi video, Facebook’s willingness to moderate its platform or enforce its community standards diminishes significantly.
The examples here are numerous. Facebook allowed far-right radio host Alex Jones’ content to fester for years before it finally banned the conspiracy theorist last August, following the lead of Spotify and Apple. Facebook’s fact-checking program has also proven problematic, with conservative fact-checkers denoting even factually accurate articles from left-leaning outlets as “false.” (Full disclosure: ThinkProgress was among those outlets subjected to conservative “fact-checkers” last fall.)
According to the U.N., Facebook was also painfully slow to respond to the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar, allowing hate speech against the minority to go unchecked in the run-up to the genocide against them carried out by the Myanmar military.
In response to a ThinkProgress inquiry on Friday, a Facebook spokesperson reiterated the company’s statement to The Guardian, noting that, while the Pelosi video won’t be removed, it was rated as “False” by Facebook fact-checkers, meaning it would be heavily reduced on Facebook’s News Feed.