Meta’s manipulated media rules must change – Oversight Board

  • The Oversight Board for Meta is urging the company to update its policy around manipulated media.
  • This follows an edited video of US President Joe Biden that surfaced on Facebook and alleged that he was a “pedophile”.
  • The edited video reportedly did not meet the narrow requirements under Meta’s manipulated media guidelines.

In the lead up to a number of national elections this year, several social media platforms are coming under scrutiny over how they handle manipulated media, especially in the age of AI.

The latest is Meta, with its Oversight Board advising that the company take a serious look at its policy regarding manipulated media that was first outlined in 2020. The reason the policy has come under review relates to an edited video of US President Joe Biden with his granddaughter visiting a pooling station.

The original video, which you can see here, shows Biden and his granddaughter enter the station, and then cast their votes. Thereafter they place an “I Voted” stick on one another and then Biden kisses his granddaughter on the cheek. The video ends with him going to speak to media outside of the station to discuss allegations of a stolen election back in 2020.

The edited video shows Biden fondling the chest of the young women, with the words “sick pedophile” and “mentally unwell” appearing as captions in a post placed on Facebook.

According to the Oversight Board, however, the edited video does not currently infringe on the policies that Meta has in place.

“The Facebook post does not violate Meta’s Manipulated Media policy, which applies only to video created through artificial intelligence (AI) and only to content showing people saying things they did not say. Since the video in this post was not altered using AI and it shows President Biden doing something he did not do (not something he didn’t say), it does not violate the existing policy,” the Board noted in a statement.

“Nevertheless, 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). Meta should reconsider this policy quickly, given the number of elections in 2024,” it crucially added.

As for the recommendations, they are three-fold, and as follows:

  • “Reconsider the scope of its Manipulated Media policy to cover audio and audiovisual content, content showing people doing things they did not do (as well as saying things they did not say) and content regardless of how it was created or altered.
  • Clearly define in a single unified Manipulated Media policy the harms it aims to prevent – beyond users being misled – such as preventing interference with the right to vote and to participate in the conduct of public affairs.
  • Stop removing manipulated media when no other policy violation is present and instead apply a label indicating the content is significantly altered and could mislead. Such a label should be attached to the media (for example, at the bottom of a video) rather than the entire post and be applied to all identical instances of that media on Meta’s platforms.”

With nine months to go between now and the US Presidential elections in November, there is still time for an updated policy to be devised and published. That said there are also several other elections expected to take place this year, including one here in South Africa, and as such the policy that Meta updates will be applicable in those countries too.

The fact that this is being done in the same year as the elections themselves, when both Meta and the Oversight Board had four years to make these recommendations, is a little more concerning.

Meta is expected to make a public response regarding the Board’s recommendations within the next 60 days, although it is still unclear whether any changes will be made. Ever since the Oversight Board was first spun up in 2020, it has not shown much in the way of teeth or indeed forcing Meta’s hand.

[Image – Photo by Julio Lopez on Unsplash]


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