Fake Zuckerberg video challenges Facebook’s rules

Cade Metz, The New York Times

Posted at Jun 12 2019 08:15 AM | Updated as of Jun 12 2019 08:26 AM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves after his keynote speech during Facebook Inc's annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, US, April 30, 2019. Stephen Lam, Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO — Two weeks ago, Facebook declined to remove a doctored video in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to drunkenly slur her speech. Over the weekend, two British artists released a doctored video of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, as a sly comment on the spread of false information online.

Posted to the Facebook-owned social network Instagram, the video shows Zuckerberg speaking directly into the camera, boasting of nefarious motives behind his online empire.

“Imagine this for a second: One man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” he appears to say. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”

The video is easily recognizable as a fake, in part because the voice paired with the image sounds only marginally like Zuckerberg. And Spectre is a reference to a fictional, evil organization in James Bond lore. But it serves both as a piece of digital commentary and as a test of the way Facebook handles the spread of false information on its social network.

The two artists behind the video, Bill Powers and Daniel Howe, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening. Nor did Canny AI, an Israeli advertising startup that helped create the video.

A spokeswoman for Instagram said the fake video of Zuckerberg would receive the same treatment as the fake video of Pelosi and other misinformation.

“If third-party fact checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages,” said Stephanie Otway, a spokeswoman for the company.

Facebook has been under pressure to deal with the steady stream of false and misleading content on its social network. Another flash point occurred late last month when the video of Pelosi was shared millions of times across Facebook and other services.

After many urged Facebook to remove the video, it declined to do so, saying the video did not violate its policies, which also allow people to freely express themselves online. Twitter said something similar, while YouTube, owned by Google, removed the video.

Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials have said that artificial intelligence technology will ultimately allow the company to control the spread of false information, but the doctored video of Pelosi showed disagreement among big social media companies on what is worthy of removal.

The doctored video of Zuckerberg shows that AI technology is also being used to create disinformation. Researchers are increasingly concerned that deep-learning technology can be used to create “deepfake” videos that are hard to distinguish from the real thing.

Canny AI has said that it can use AI techniques to doctor videos, and once posted a video of world leaders singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to show what was possible.

2019 New York Times News Service