Facebook bans deepfakes ahead of US election

Nancy Pelosi

Facebook has said it will remove deepfakes and other forms of manipulated videos ahead of the 2020 US elections.

However, the social network's new guidelines left a little grey area for videos deemed "parody or satire".

The changes were announced through a blog post published ahead of a House Energy and Commerce hearing on manipulated media, scheduled for Wednesday. It was written by Monika Bickert, Facebook's VP of global policy management, who is set to represent the company at the hearing.

The social network said it will remove content if "it has been edited or synthesized - beyond adjustments for clarity or quality - in ways that aren't apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say."

This also included content that is "the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic".

However, Facebook also stipulated that "this policy does not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words".

Facebook said that deepfakes present a significant challenge for the digital industry and society, but also suggested they were still very rare. But there are famous examples, such as the video of actress Jennifer Lawrence with Steve Buscemi's face or comedian Bill Hader doing an impression of Tom Cruise with the actor's visage superimposed over his own.

The most notorious example, and one that casts some doubt over Facebook's guidelines, is the Nancy Pelosi video. An edited clip of the House Speaker was made to look like she repeated and slurred words. This was tweeted out by President Donald Trump.

Facebook told IT Pro that the Nancy Pelosi video didn't meet the requirements of the new guidelines and would therefore not be removed, but was subjected to other forms of enforcement, such as reduced distribution and also warnings for those that share it that it was 'false'.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.