House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday blasted Facebook over its decision to keep up videos doctored to falsely depict her slurring her words, calling it proof that the social network isn’t taking disinformation campaigns seriously.
During an interview with San Francisco radio station KQED, the Democratic leader responded for the first time to the company’s decision to leave up the flurry of videos that had been slowed to make her appear inebriated.
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“We have said all along, poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians. I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it’s wrong,” she said. “I can take it. … But [Facebook is] lying to the public.”
She added: “I think they have proven — by not taking down something they know is false — that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election.”
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on Pelosi’s remarks.
The company said Friday it would not take down the videos, some of which have garnered millions of views, because its rules don’t prevent users from posting false information.
That justification quickly drew scorn from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who have long criticized the company for not doing enough to curb misinformation on its platform. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Sunday called the manipulated videos a “sad omen of what is to come in the 2020 election season.”
The dust-up adds to a growing list of political headaches for Facebook in Washington and around the world. The company has said it expects a historic, multi-billion dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission, and lawmakers are contemplating new privacy rules that would restrict how it collects user data.
In Canada, a parliamentary committee this week issued an open-ended summons for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and threatened to hold them in contempt if they don’t appear to answer questions if they set foot in the country. And leaders from France to New Zealand are calling for the social network to be more accountable for terrorism-related content and other material that flows through its platform.
Facebook’s treatment of the Pelosi video threatens to turn one of the most powerful members of Congress, who represents Facebook’s home state of California, against the company.
Just last week, Pelosi was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Internet Association, an industry lobbying group that counts Facebook as one of its members.