Meta’s policy on manipulated media has been deemed “incoherent” and inadequate by the company’s own Oversight Board. The board recently issued a decision stating that the focus of the policy should be on the potential harm caused by a video rather than solely on whether it was altered using artificial intelligence (AI). Despite this criticism, the board upheld Meta’s decision to allow a manipulated video of President Joe Biden to remain on the platform. This article delves into the board’s recommendations and the need for Meta to reconsider its policy.

One particular video that sparked the board’s scrutiny involved President Biden. In this video, real footage of Biden from October 2022 shows him placing an “I Voted” sticker on his adult granddaughter’s chest, as per her instruction. However, the video was edited to loop the moment Biden’s hand reaches her chest, creating the false impression that he inappropriately touched her. A version of the video even goes as far as dubbing Biden as a “sick pedophile” in the caption. Despite the misleading and defamatory nature of the video, the Oversight Board agreed with Meta’s decision that it did not violate the manipulated media policy. This is because the policy only prohibits videos that make it seem like someone said something they didn’t, not videos that depict actions they didn’t do.

Criticisms of Meta’s Manipulated Media Policy

While the Oversight Board supported Meta’s decision in this specific case, it strongly recommended revisiting the manipulated media policy due to the impending 2024 elections. The board found the policy to be lacking in persuasive justification, confusing to users, and failing to clearly specify the harms it aims to prevent. In other words, the policy is incoherent.

According to the board, the policy should cover instances where video or audio is edited to create the impression that someone engaged in an action they didn’t, even if it is not based on their words. The board also raised doubts about the logic of focusing on how a post was edited, whether through AI or more basic editing tricks, in making such determinations. After consulting experts and considering public comments, the board concluded that non-AI-altered content can be just as misleading. However, this does not mean that Meta should remove all manipulated posts. The board suggested that less restrictive measures, such as applying labels to notify users of significant edits, could be more appropriate in most cases.

The Oversight Board was established by Meta to review content moderation decisions and provide binding judgments on appealed cases. Additionally, the board has the authority to make policy recommendations for Meta to consider. This mechanism allows for external oversight of Meta’s content moderation practices and ensures a level of transparency.

In response to the recommendations made by the Oversight Board, Meta has stated that it is reviewing the suggestions and will issue a public response within 60 days, as required by the board’s bylaws. The company will need to carefully consider the criticisms and evaluate the potential impact of implementing changes to its manipulated media policy.

The Oversight Board’s critique of Meta’s manipulated media policy highlights the need for more comprehensive guidelines regarding the handling of misleading content, particularly as important elections approach. While the board acknowledged that Meta correctly applied its policy in the specific case of the manipulated Biden video, it emphasized the policy’s deficiencies, inconsistency, and lack of clarity. Meta now faces the challenge of reassessing its policy to address the concerns raised by the Oversight Board and strike a balance between freedom of expression and protecting users from harmful content.


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