Meta Platforms

Oversight Board calls Meta policy ‘incoherent’ as altered Biden video stays up

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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Oversight Board calls Meta policy ‘incoherent’ as altered Biden video stays up

META. Meta and Facebook logos are seen in this illustration taken February 15, 2022

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The Oversight Board finds current Meta policy on manipulated media 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'

Meta Platforms’ Oversight Board urged the company to update its policies regarding manipulated content following a ruling in which the board upheld a decision to keep a misleading video of US President Joe Biden up on Facebook.

The board believes the current policy is “incoherent,” at least relative to the needs of the platform at present.

What was the video?

According to the February 2024 ruling by the Oversight Board, the board chose to uphold a decision – citing Meta’s existing policies – that would let an edited video of Biden remain on the site.

The original video from October 2022 showed Biden as he was voting in person during the US midterm elections. The original video showed him exchanging ‘I Voted” stickers with his adult granddaughter. He placed the sticker above her chest, according to the granddaughter’s instructions, and then kissed his granddaughter on the cheek.

The May 2023 video from a Facebook user loops the video in such a way as to emphasize when the president’s hand makes contact with his granddaughter’s chest, as if inappropriately touching her. This video’s caption calls Biden a “sick pedophile,” and adds those who vote for him are “mentally unwell.”

That video, the Oversight Board said, “was edited to make it appear as though US President Joe Biden is inappropriately touching his adult granddaughter’s chest, and which is accompanied by a caption describing him as a ‘pedophile.'”

‘Incoherent’ policy

The Oversight Board noted, “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.”

The board added that, as the video in the post wasn’t altered using AI and showed Biden doing something he did not do – rather than say something he never said – it doesn’t violate existing Meta policy.

That said, the board said it was “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),” It added Meta should reconsider its policy accordingly given the number of elections in 2024.

The Oversight Board’s recommendation

The Oversight Board held three recommendations regarding this case.

First, it recommended Meta reconsider the scope of its Manipulated Media policy, so that audio and audiovisual content were considered, and so that included in the scope was “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.”

Second, the board recommended a single unified Manipulated Media policy that defines what harms the policy aims to prevent. Beyond misleading users of Meta’s services, the policy should also note other situations, such as what it called “preventing interference with the right to vote and to participate in the conduct of public affairs.”

Lastly, the board recommended labeling altered or misleading content rather than removing manipulated media when it has not made any other policy violation. Said the board, “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.” – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.