In a recent decision, Meta’s Oversight Board addressed a manipulated video of President Joe Biden on Facebook, highlighting a concerning loophole in the company’s manipulated media policy. The quasi-judicial board emphasized the need for Meta to swiftly close this problematic gap in its policies, warning that it poses a threat to elections worldwide. The controversial video, which was allowed to remain on the platform, showcased the complexity and limitations of Meta’s current approach to manipulated content.

Details of the Manipulated Video:

The video in question, posted last spring, depicted President Biden placing an “I Voted” sticker on his adult granddaughter’s chest. However, the clip had been edited to create a false impression, making it seem as if Biden had behaved inappropriately by touching her chest repeatedly. The Oversight Board reviewed the case after a user who reported the video appealed Meta’s decision not to remove the content.

Loophole in Meta’s Policies:

Meta’s manipulated media policy focuses on content altered by artificial intelligence to make it appear as if a person said something they did not. However, this policy is narrowly written and does not cover situations where the content is edited to create a false impression, as seen in the Biden video. The Oversight Board expressed concerns about the incoherence of Meta’s current policy and urged the company to reconsider it promptly, especially given the upcoming record number of elections in 2024.

Calls for Clarity and Revision:

The Board emphasized the need for Meta to provide greater clarity on the harms it aims to prevent, specifically highlighting the potential impact on electoral processes. It recommended revisions to the policy, stating that “deep fakes” should not be treated differently from content altered in other ways. The urgency of this recommendation is underscored by the upcoming elections, where manipulated media could play a significant role in shaping public opinion.

Historical Context and Blowback:

This isn’t the first time Meta has faced challenges related to manipulated media. Over four years ago, the company received criticism for a slowed-down video of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her appear as if she was slurring her speech. Despite blowback, Facebook did not remove the Pelosi video, citing that it did not violate its policies. The Oversight Board’s current recommendation reflects the need for Meta to learn from past incidents and adapt its policies to address evolving challenges.

Meta’s Response and Future Steps:

In response to the Oversight Board’s feedback, Meta issued a statement on Monday, stating that it is reviewing the recommendations and will respond publicly within 60 days. The company’s commitment to addressing these concerns is crucial in ensuring a responsible and effective approach to handling manipulated media on its platform. As discussions surrounding the regulation of digital content continue, Meta’s responsiveness will be closely monitored by users, policymakers, and the public alike.