Former Facebook CSO Alex Stamos joined MSNBC Live host Stephanie Ruhle on Thursday to discuss Facebook's response, or lack of a response, to doctored or misleading videos. Ruhle was particularly upset that misleading videos, such as the Nancy Pelosi one from a few weeks ago, was not removed and even wondered what the government could do about.
Stamos, for his part said that not only would removing videos be impractical, preferring to simply label them as misleading, but any government compulsion to do so would likely be unconstitutional. He said that some videos, such as the Pelosi one, "are very, very common" and "that's something my 12-year-old could do on iMovie."
Ruhle declared in a bit of self-righteousness, "Your 12-year-old could create that video, but you know what, he or she can't put it on NBC News because we have legal and standards and best practices." NBC's standards must be pretty low as here are just some instances of deceptive editing on the part of NBC and MSNBC:
- July 2018: Omitting "And dear Europe, spend more on your defense" from a speech given by President of the European Council Donald Tusk, where Tusk criticized President Trump's approach to Europe.
- January 2017: Eliminating crucial context from Rudy Giuliani's comments regarding the travel ban.
- June 2013: Rock Center deceptively edits an interview to give the impression that a Hasidic Rabbi is covering up sexual abuse.
- June 2013: Deceptively editing Texas Rep. Pete Sessions to make it appear as if he were calling poor people "rapists, pedophiles and murderers" during a debate on food stamps.
- January 2013: Martin Bashir edits question posed by the father of a Newtown victim to portray Second Amendment supports as hecklers.
- June 2012: Andrea Mitchell acts as if Mitt Romney does not know what a touchscreen is..
- August 2009: Showing a man at a Tea Party rally with a gun and claiming it raised questions about "racial overtones." The individual was a black man.
If Facebook is to start labeling videos as misleading, one can expect to see such a label accompanying many videos put out by NBC and MSNBC.
Here is a transcript for the June 13 show:
MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle
9:45 AM ET
STEPHANIE RUHLE Joining us now, the best possible person, I'm so honored he's is, NBC security analyst Alex Stamos. He is the former chief security officer at Facebook. He knows best. Alex, I am deeply concerned, there's another Deepfake video with Mark Zuckerberg of all people giving a sinister speech about the power of Facebook, but you say the best way to combat these videos thing is not take them down.
ALEX STAMOS: That’s right Stephanie. The first thing is, there’s all this focus on Deepfakes, because they are very convincing and technically sophisticated but really, what we are seeing is an emergence of a whole new set of types of information that are powered by the misleading use of video. And that misleading use does not have to include something as advanced as a Bill Hader video. You know, in January earlier this year, we saw this big controversy, the Covington Catholic video of this run-in between high school students and a American native activist. There's no indication that any of those videos were faked. But by cutting the videos in very different segments people were able create different views of what happened…
STAMOS: Right, editing…
RUHLE But that's always existed.
STAMOS: That’s always existed, right. What we’re seeing now people are finding the power to use video. In some issues I think the Deepfake issue is a little overblown in that Deepfakes themselves because they are completely invented usually have specific technical indicators that they have been faked. If something that is obviously that faked, there's a way to push back. I'm a little more concerned about the really subtle implementation. You mentioned the Nancy Pelosi video that became an issue a couple of weeks ago, that's something my 12-year-old could do on iMovie, right, you’re not talking about the kind of technical sophistication you saw in the Hader video. Those kinds of manipulation are very, very common and I think very insidious because it's difficult to pushback on something that is much more subtle.
RUHLE: Your 12-year-old could create that video, but you know what, he or she can't put it on NBC News because we have legal and standards and best practices. Facebook does not. So is it the technology and creation of these videos or platforms allow it? Because once it's up there, it takes a while to get it down. It's already been spread.
STAMOS: Right, I think what the companies needs to do here, is first off, just taking it down is just a very difficult thing. We saw this around the Christchurch video, where that was rightfully taken down the companies. That was a video that showed the murder of individuals and calling for more violence. But in doing so they generated a pushback of 1.5 million people trying to reupload the video in the next 24 hours. When you completely censure a video, I think it's less effective than labeling it as misleading and that's actually something we are making a suggestion at our group at Stanford is the companies need to be much more willing to label things as misleading. They like to pin it back to the fact check model, right, one of the issues with Facebook’s response to the Pelosi video was it took a long time because they
were waiting for a fact-checking partner to state it was a disputed fact. But it’s not really a disputed fact, that video was modified in a misleading manner. That’s not a disputable thing. There’s obvious technical evidence and so the companies need to be super aggressive about labeling them.
RUHLE: Okay, “need to be,” but we don't self-police, we self-regulate. It just doesn't happen that way. What does the government need to do? We know there’s a hearing going on right now.
STAMOS: Right, so there is a hearing and I think it's important for the government to talk about this, but the truth is the thing is most of these things are legally protected speech. The Pelosi video was exactly the same thing that was shown on Fox Business by Lou Dobbs. Fox is allowed to do that because we give a huge amount of leeway to people to make fun of politicians even using this misleading video. I don't think we will see legislation around this. I think we need a self-regulatory model and we should expect more from the companies. It's good for Congress to talk about it because we need people like the FBI Foreign Influencer Task Force, the DHS task force to look for this behavior
in 2020 and point out to the companies that companies have to build the technology and tools to reduce the spread of them and label these videos so if you're able to see the Bill Hader video, people know “This is something funny and I can laugh at it” and if you label the Pelosi video, people don't take it as something serious.
RUHLE They have got the resources. They need the will. Alex, thank you so much.