Facebook rules allow altered video casting Biden as paedophile, says board

Meta’s oversight board has found that a Facebook video wrongfully suggesting that the US president, Joe Biden, is a paedophile does not violate the company’s current rules while deeming those rules “incoherent” and too narrowly focused on AI-generated content.

The board, which is funded by Meta – Facebook’s parent company – but run independently, took on the Biden video case in October in response to a user complaint about an altered seven-second video of the president.

It ruled that Meta was right to leave the video up under its current policy, which bars misleadingly altered videos only if they were produced by artificial intelligence or if they make people appear to say words they never actually said.

But the ruling is the first to critique Meta’s policy on “manipulated media” amid rising concerns about the potential use of new AI technologies to sway elections this year.

It said the policy “is lacking in persuasive justification, is incoherent and confusing to users, and fails to clearly specify the harms it is seeking to prevent”. It suggested Meta update it to cover both audio and video content and to apply labels identifying it as manipulated regardless of whether AI was used.

It stopped short of calling for the policy to apply to photographs, saying that doing so might make the policy too difficult to enforce at Meta’s scale.

Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, informed the board in the course of the review that it was planning to update the policy “to respond to the evolution of new and increasingly realistic AI”, according to the ruling.

The clip on Facebook manipulated real footage of Biden exchanging “I Voted” stickers with his granddaughter during the 2022 US midterm elections and kissing her on the cheek.

The board said non-AI altered content was “prevalent and not necessarily any less misleading” than content generated by AI tools.

Enforcement, it added, should consist of applying labels to the content rather than Meta’s current approach of removing the posts from its platforms.

The company said in a statement on Monday that it was reviewing the ruling and would respond publicly within 60 days.

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