Giuliani’s Retweets Of Doctored Pelosi Videos Raises Interesting Questions About AI’s Role In Future Elections

Chris White | Tech Reporter
  • Media say President Donald Trump retweeted a doctored version of a Nancy Pelosi speech, but the truth is a bit more complicated.
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s decision to retweet a heavily doctored and out of context video of Pelosi raises questions about the dangers of so-called deepfake videos.
  • Experts urge media to make a distinction between the type of doctored video of Pelosi that Giuliani shared and the edited version Trump retweeted.

Journalists are criticizing President Donald Trump for supposedly retweeting a highly doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi designed to make her appear drunk.

Media outlets are suggesting Trump and his personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, attempted to use highly manipulated videos to mock one of the president’s fiercest opponents. But the story is more complicated. The president did indeed share an edited version of Pelosi but not the same deceptively doctored version Giuliani shared.

Media appeared to conflate the two videos.

“Manipulated videos of Nancy Pelosi that made it seem as if she were repeatedly stumbling and slurring her words spread across social media on Thursday,” The NYT noted in a tweet Friday. “President Trump shared one of the edited videos as tensions escalated between the 2 leaders.”

The tweet linked to an article with a headline that blared: “Manipulated Pelosi Videos Spread On Social Media, With Help From Trump.”

NBC crafted a similar tweet. “President Trump on Thursday night tweeted out an edited video showing Nancy Pelosi stumbling over her words, escalating the personal attacks he has made against her,” NBC tweeted. Reporting this particular story accurately while also placing the situation into context is difficult as both videos were manipulated, experts say.

There is an important distinction between the two videos, Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, told NBC News. (RELATED: Tech Billionaire Allegedly Behind A False Flag Operation Played A Role In Creating Fake News Software, Nonprofit Confirms)

“Unlike the video referred to in The Washington Post article, I don’t believe that this video montage was slowed down,” he said. “This montage, however, is highly deceptive as it compiles in rapid succession relatively small verbal stumbles in an attempt to portray Speaker Pelosi as stumbling through her press conference.”

One of the videos, which was first reported on by The Washington Post Thursday, was slowed down to make Pelosi’s speech appear slurred. That video has been viewed millions of times and was later amplified on Twitter by the former New York City mayor.

“What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi?” Giuliani said in a tweet that has since been deleted. “Her speech pattern is bizarre.” He later acknowledged the mistake. “Where do you go to check that it’s inaccurate?” Giuliani said to NYT reporter Sarah Mervosh, referring to the manipulated Pelosi video. “How could I have figured out that it was inaccurate?”

Trump tweeted a separate video Thursday night in which someone spliced together a speech Pelosi gave at a news conference that made her appear lost and confused. The president has been involved in a very public spat with Pelosi as they argue about policy differences. Trump’s family members have also gone after the California Democrat.

Some journalists noted the distinction.

“Yes, agree. Deceptively edited vs Doctored. The key point is, both are bad! But many people were incorrectly assuming that the video POTUS tweeted was one of the ones mentioned by WAPO when it wasn’t,” freelance reporter Yashar Ali wrote in a tweet Thursday, seemingly making a distinction between videos that are edited without context and those that are deceptively doctored.

Neither NBC nor The NYT responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the complexity of the story. YouTube nixed the doctored video. A representative with the company said the videos, which violated YouTube policy, “did not surface prominently.”

Facebook, for its part, told reporters Friday that the company is not taking down the doctored version that Giuliani shared, though the content will be downgraded in the news feed. The videos are still being spread on Twitter, according to media reports. The company has not responded to reporters’ questions.

Tech experts had long worried that so-called “deepfakes” — or AI-manipulated videos, audio and photos designed to stir up political mayhem could be the new normal. But majority of the manipulations have been low-tech in nature, experts say. Researchers have even created a type of software designed to create such deepfake videos.

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