A doctored video of Mark Zuckerberg delivering a foreboding speech has been posted to Instagram, in a stunt that put Facebook’s content moderation policies to the test.
Videos known as “deepfakes” use artificial intelligence to manipulate the appearance and voices of individuals, often celebrities, into theoretically real-looking footage. They are likely to become the next wave in the battles over disinformation online.
The clip, posted four days ago, casts the Facebook founder in a sinister light, boasting of his power, and is meant to appear as if it is a legitimate news program.
“Imagine this for a second: one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” the faux-Zuckerberg says. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”
The video was made by a team including the artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe and the advertising company Canny, according to Vice. Spectre is the name of a recent installation from the artists, and included other deepfakes of Kim Kardashian, Freddie Mercury, Donald Trump and Marcel Duchamp among others.
Facebook said the video did not violate site rules. “We will treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram,” an Instagram spokesperson said. “If third-party factcheckers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.”
The piece is meant to be a commentary on the collection and use of private data by tech companies, as Posters explained. “The fact that citizens’ data – including intimate knowledge on political leanings, sexuality, psychological traits and personality – are made available to the highest bidder shows that the digital influence industry and its associated architectures pose a risk not only to individual human rights but to our democracies at large.”
The video comes after Facebook declined to remove a manipulated video of Nancy Pelosi even after it was viewed millions of times. The video, which was slowed to make it appear as if Pelosi were drunk and slurring her words, was shared by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
While Facebook did not delete the video, it said it had downplayed its appearance in newsfeeds.
“There’s a tension here: we work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free expression and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that reducing the distribution of inauthentic content strikes that balance,” a Facebook spokesperson said in May. “But just because something is allowed to be on Facebook doesn’t mean it should get distribution. In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”