After the QAnon crowd widely shared an altered video clip of President Joe Biden last year, the Meta Oversight Board just ruled the video can remain on Facebook. But the board is also recommending a massive policy overhaul on manipulated content.
The Associated Press has a completely innocuous video from October 2021 entitled “Granddaughter joins Biden in casting early vote.” In the video, President Joe Biden and his granddaughter cast an early vote at a polling place, and President Biden stamps the “I Voted” sticker on her. But in May 2023, some online right-wingers doctored the video so it appeared Biden was feeling up his granddaughter, and according to Engadget, the video added captions saying Biden was a “sick pedophile,” and that people who voted for him were “mentally unwell.”
Some users flagged the video as hate speech, though Facebook moderators felt it didn't violate any rules and kept the video up. That decision was appealed to the third-party Facebook Oversight Board (which now calls itself the Meta Oversight Board) this past October.
Now CBS News reports that the oversight board is allowing the video to stay up, essentially upholding Facebook’s decision, claiming that the edits were “obvious and therefore unlikely to mislead” users. But the oversight board also said Facebook’s policies on manipulated content are a mess. In this case, the video technically did not violate those rules because it was altered manually and not with AI, which seems an irrelevant distinction.
“The Board is concerned about the Manipulated media policy in its current form, 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),” the board wrote, according to Engadget. The board added that Meta should “reconsider this policy quickly, given the number of elections in 2024.”
In their ruling, the board recommended policies that apply equally “regardless of the method of creation,” not just specifically targeting AI. They also added that Facebook should “apply a label indicating the content is significantly layered and may mislead.”
Meta said in a statement to CBS News that "We are reviewing the Oversight Board's guidance and will respond publicly to their recommendations within 60 days in accordance with the bylaws." But that doesn’t necessarily commit to changing the policy.
And considering that it took five months for the oversight board to take up the case, and then three more months for them to make a decision, which Facebook said it will “respond publicly to” in another two months, this litigation process seems like it’s going to move a lot more slowly than the bad actors and AI hucksters who may hope to this year's influence elections.
Image: WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk across the South Lawn as they return to the White House on May 15, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Bidens attended their granddaughter Maisy Biden’s graduation ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)