CNN’s Anderson Cooper pressed a Facebook executive Friday over the company’s decision to not remove a video on the platform that was altered to make it appear that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was slurring her words in a news conference.
During an interview on his show, Cooper questioned Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, over why the video, which has been viewed more than 2 million times, has not been deleted.
“Facebook has repeatedly told Congress and the American people that you’re serious about fighting disinformation and fake news, yet this doctored video that I think your own fact-checkers acknowledge is doctored of Speaker Pelosi remains on your platform,” Cooper told Bicker. “Why?”
“Anybody who is seeing this video in news feed, anyone who is going to share it to somebody else, anybody who has shared it in the past, they are being alerted that this video is false,” Bickert responded.
“We work with internationally certified fact-checking organizations that are independent from Facebook, and we think these are the right organizations to be making decisions about whether something is true or false,” she continued. “As soon as we get a rating from them that content is false, then we dramatically reduce the distribution of that content.”
Cooper then pressed Bickert over whether Facebook had entered the “news business,” questioning whether the company could be trusted to operate and make money by being a place for viewers to turn during major news events.
“I understand it’s a big business to get into of trying to figure out what’s true or not, but you’re making money by being in the news business. If you can’t do it well, shouldn’t you just get out of the news business?” Cooper asked.
“We aren’t in the news business. We’re in the social media business,” Bickert countered.
“Well, you are in the news business,” Cooper fired back. “The reason you’re sharing news is because you make money from it. It keeps people watching you and more involved in your site, which I get, and that’s fair. But if you’re in the news business, which you are, you’ve got to do it right and this is false information you are spreading.”
Facebook’s defense of its protocol for removing fake content and accounts from the platform comes as the company was the target of widespread criticism this week after it said it would not remove the doctored video of Pelosi.
A Facebook official said Friday that removing the video would violate the company’s policy on free expression, taking a similar line as Twitter, which also elected to keep the video up.
YouTube staffers removed all traces of the doctored video this week from its own platform after the clips were flagged by reporters.
The Facebook page behind the video’s original posting, “Politics WatchDog,” has pushed back against claims that it was spreading fake news.
“Just for the record we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country,” the page’s administrator wrote.
A Pelosi aide told The Washington Post, which reported on altered videos of the Democratic leader, that her office was “not going to comment on this sexist trash.”