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Manipulated Biden video can remain online, Meta’s Oversight Board rules

Originally Published: 05 FEB 24 10:25 ET

Updated: 05 FEB 24 16:54 ET

By Brian Fung, CNN

Washington (CNN) — A video on Facebook manipulated to suggest that President Joe Biden behaves inappropriately toward women can remain on the platform, but only because of a problematic loophole in Meta’s “incoherent” policies, the company’s Oversight Board said Monday.

The loophole threatens elections worldwide and should be closed as soon as possible, the quasi-judicial board added.

The video in question was posted last spring and showed Biden placing an “I Voted” sticker on his adult granddaughter’s chest — but the clip had been edited to make it seem as if he had touched her chest repeatedly and inappropriately, the Oversight Board said in deciding the case. The Board reviewed the case after a user who reported the video appealed Meta’s decision not to remove the content.

Meta’s manipulated media policy applies only to video that has been altered by artificial intelligence and that makes it appear as if a person said something they did not. The policy may be enforced only in situations where both conditions are fulfilled. The policy also does not apply to manipulated audio.

Because Biden video did the things portrayed in the video – even if it was heavily edited to create a false impression – the video was allowed to stay on the platform. Meta’s policy on faked content is written too narrowly to apply to that video, the Oversight Board said, urging Meta to “reconsider this policy quickly, given the number of elections in 2024.”

“The policy should not treat ‘deep fakes’ different to content altered in other ways,” the Board said. “Meta needs to provide greater clarity on [the harms it is seeking to prevent] and needs to make revisions quickly, given the record number of elections in 2024.”

“The Board is concerned about the Manipulated Media policy in its current form,” it added, “finding it to be incoherent, lacking in persuasive justification and inappropriately focused on how content has been created, rather than on which specific harms it aims to prevent (for example, to electoral processes).”

In a statement to CNN Monday, Biden’s presidential campaign called Meta’s policy “nonsensical and dangerous.”

“As this case demonstrates, Meta’s Manipulated Media policy is both nonsensical and dangerous — particularly given the stakes of this election for our democracy. Meta should reconsider the policy and do so immediately,” said Kevin Munoz, a senior spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

The recommendation comes more than four years after Meta faced blowback for a slowed-down video that made then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear as if she was slurring her speech. It took Facebook more than a day to demote the video on its platform, and only after a third-party factchecker reported the video as false, triggering an automatic response by Facebook’s algorithm to present it differently in news feeds.

At the time, Facebook did not remove the Pelosi video, saying it did not violate its policies.

Meta’s policy on manipulated media provides exemptions for parody and satire, as well as selectively edited content that omits or changes the order of words said in a video.

Meta said Monday in a statement that it is reviewing the Oversight Board’s feedback “and will respond publicly to their recommendations within 60 days in accordance with the bylaws.”

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

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