Accuracy in Media

NBC News blasted Facebook for permitting a “deceptively edited” video critical of former vice president Joe Biden over the weekend. The edited video made it seem that Biden endorsed President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Saturday.

Biden told an audience in Kansas City, Missouri, “We can only re-elect Donald Trump if, in fact, we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s got to be a positive campaign.” The video focused on Biden’s phrase, “We can only re-elect Donald Trump” to claim that Biden endorsed Trump.

NBC News said that Facebook labeled the video as misleading on its platform, which was “one of the first instances in which new policies meant to curb misinformation have been applied to the Trump campaign.” The news outlet called the video a “manipulated video,” which is an example of what information researchers call a “cheap fake.” A “cheap fake” is a video that has been altered to change content or meaning.

Facebook officially labeled the video two days later on Monday as “partly false information” and reduced the video’s distribution to a wider audience. But for NBC News, Facebook’s action was too little and too late. NBC News quoted Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz to make its point, which was Facebook’s “malfeasance when it comes to trafficking in blatantly false information” should be considered a “national crisis.” The news outlet also added past examples of Facebook’s slow responses to altered videos to shore up its argument.

Facebook should have sped up its fact-check and labeling of the video, but NBC News admitted that Facebook adhered to its previously-stated policies on fact-checking in verifying the video’s content. On a procedural level, Facebook did well and was insulated from NBC News’s criticism.

Although NBC News correctly noted that the video could be considered political free speech, it decided to criticize Facebook for permitting the video to spread on its platform. Political advertisements take quotes and comments out-of-context to score political points, and this video met that threshold and should have been considered political speech. It was wrong for NBC News to criticize Facebook for permitting the video on its platform without providing context about misleading content in political advertisements and videos.

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