As the United States prepares for yet another divisive presidential election, our social media institutions are being expected to curb the spread of political propaganda. Recently, Facebook announced a blanket ban on manipulated videos and photos maliciously using “DeepFake” technology, but not all false content. The question on everyone’s lips, however, is whether they can even enforce the ban without false positives and mass censorship, and the company’s answers won’t be smoothing tensions anytime soon.
It was originally leaked to The Washington Post that Facebook had already begun banning users from posting Deepfakes, classified as a piece of video or audio material where highly convincing editing software has manipulated how a subject looks, sounds and acts.
“While these videos are still rare on the Internet, they present a significant challenge for our industry and society as their use increases,” said Monika Bickert, the company’s vice president for global policy management, in a recent blog post. I would go a step further to suggest it’s an existential threat to our modern information age.
In the announcement, Facebook tries to play the slippery centrist in declaring it “does not prohibit all doctored videos”, just those considered to be Deepfakes, meaning they must be false material “edited in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone” and must use artificial intelligence software to achieve this goal. The only distinction here between a Deepfake and all doctored videos is methods, not results, which begs questions over how they can tell the difference and what gives these differences much distinction at all.
A prime example of this false debate involves a viral video of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which she was edited to be slowed down, appearing to slur her words as though she was drunk, which was viewed by millions across the platform. Political camps argued not on the merits of its falsehood, but rather the means by which the falsehood was peddled, each taking a side on whether it was a Deepfake or something made without the use of artificial intelligence software, what disinformation researchers are now calling “cheapfakes” or “shallowfakes.” The reason this should be…