Pelosi slams Facebook for refusing to take down doctored videos

Hillary Clinton called the Pelosi video "sexist trash" during a commencement speech at Hunter College in New York on Wednesday.
Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill ion April 4, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on April 4, 2019.Yuri Gripas / Reuters file

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By Dareh Gregorian

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out at Facebook on Wednesday, accusing the social network of being a willing dupe for Russia after it refused to take down doctored videos of her.

"We have said all along, 'poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians,'" the California Democrat told California radio station KQED News in an interview. "I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it's wrong."

"I can take it ... But [Facebook is] lying to the public."

The Russia reference was a nod to special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which showed that Kremlin-linked disinformation efforts pushed divisive Facebook advertisements that reached as many as 126 million people.

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Shortly after Pelosi's comments, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — who was the target of the bulk of the Russian Facebook ads — called the Pelosi video "sexist trash" during a commencement speech at Hunter College in New York on Wednesday. She urged graduates to push Facebook to take down bogus videos, and "send a message" before "we are flooded with them."

The doctored videos of Pelosi cropped up online last week, as President Donald Trump was venting about comments she'd made about him being "engaged in a cover-up" by blocking House subpoenas.

The video was slowed down to make it sound as if Pelosi was slurring her words at a Center for American Progress event, The Washington Post reported.

The video was viewed millions of times on Facebook. The company said a fact-checker had rated the video "false," but declined to remove it.

At an event Tuesday, the company defended leaving the video up, with public policy manager Neil Potts reportedly noting the company had "flagged" the video, which makes it easier for users to read more about the post and "make their own decisions about that content."

Other sites, including YouTube, have taken the video down.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on Pelosi's remarks.

The company has become a target for several of the Democrats running for president, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., calling for tech giants like Facebook to be dismantled into smaller companies. That proposal is backed by fellow candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Early Facebook user Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, meanwhile, has suggested a "spectrum" of regulations to rein the tech giants in.