Meta’s Oversight Board Urges Policy Revision on Manipulated Content Ahead of 2024 Elections

Controversial edited video raises questions about Meta’s current policies

A recent incident involving a manipulated video on Facebook. has caught the attention of Meta’s Oversight Board, who have found fault with the platform’s policies in this area. The controversial video featured President Joe Biden and was edited to give the impression that he acted inappropriately towards a woman. Despite its deceptive nature, the video remains online due to a loophole in Meta’s rules on faked content.

The Oversight Board has called for a swift revision of these policies ahead of the pivotal 2024 elections, pointing out their inconsistency and potential danger to democracy. They argue that all forms of altered content should be treated equally, with no distinction made between so-called “deep fakes” and other types of manipulation.

Incoherent policies create confusion and inconsistency

The problematic video dates back to last spring and shows President Biden placing an “I Voted” sticker on his adult granddaughter’s chest. However, it had been deceptively edited to make it appear as if he repeatedly touched her chest in an inappropriate manner. In response to this specific case, the Oversight Board highlighted the insufficiency of Meta’s policy on faked content, describing it as “incoherent.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s presidential campaign denounced Meta’s manipulated media policy as nonsensical and dangerous for democracy. With more than a day passing before Facebook decided to demote the video following a fact-checker report classifying it as false, doubts are being raised over the effectiveness of the existing policy framework.

Exemptions add further complications

  • Parody
  • Satire
  • Selectively edited content
    • Meta’s current policy includes exemptions for parody, satire, and selectively edited content. While this may grant artistic freedom and protect free speech rights, it simultaneously allows problematic and misleading material to remain on the platform. The Oversight Board cautions that this ambiguity and leniency could have serious ramifications in upcoming election cycles, particularly if disinformation campaigns seek to distort public opinion.

      Demand for a comprehensive and coherent policy

      The Oversight Board has urged Meta to revise its policies quickly to better address cases like the Biden video. They maintain that clarifying the harms they intend to prevent, as well as creating a more consistent and all-encompassing policy, is crucial in dealing with edited content more effectively.

      Ultimately, the board recommends that:

      • All forms of altered content should be treated consistently, regardless of the technology used to create them
      • Better explanations are provided for potential harm from manipulated content
      • Adherence to a more rigorous process for detecting deceptive videos quickly and efficiently
        • With these recommendations in place, the hope is that Meta can improve its ability to deal with harmful and misleading content proactively, preventing undue influence on public discourse and democratic processes.

          Next steps for Meta: Lessons learned and a commitment to change?

          It remains to be seen whether Meta will take action following the Oversight Board’s feedback, but the company has committed to responding publicly within 60 days. As elections approach – and with incidents like the controversial Biden video highlighting weaknesses in current policy frameworks – the pressure is mounting for social media platforms such as Facebook to establish clearer guidelines and robust management strategies for combating manipulated content, false information, and other threats to democracy.

          It’s essential for Meta – and the entire social media landscape – to learn from this incident and work towards a more coherent and transparent policy that prioritizes truth and accuracy over shocking headlines and altered videos.