What Role Did Facebook Play In Exposing The Man Behind The Edited Pelosi Video?

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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  • Facebook apparently helped provide crucial pieces of information to The Daily Beast about the identification of the man behind the manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • Internet privacy expert rips Facebook for helping The Daily Beast identify the profile behind the doctored video.
  • Facebook helped The Daily Beast with the story after the company received scorn from reporters for not dinging the video outright.

Facebook provided crucial pieces of information helping reporters reveal the identification of the man who created a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Daily Beast noted in a June 1 report that a black man named Shawn Brooks was responsible for a doctored Facebook video that appeared to show Pelosi in an altered state. A Facebook official told The Daily Beast that Brooks was responsible for posting the video on a page called Politics Watchdog, according to the report.

“[A] Facebook official told The Daily Beast, Brooks posted a very different Pelosi video to a Facebook page called Politics WatchDog,” a page operated by Brooks. The report also noted that a company official confirmed the investigation and said the video “was first posted on PoliticsWatchdog directly from Brook’s personal Facebook.”

Politicians, pundits and activists alike called on social media companies to remove the video from circulation. Facebook ultimately opted to simply label the video as “fake” and suppress its prominence in people’s feeds even after YouTube dinged the video, noting that it violated the company’s terms of service.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Brooks told The Daily Beast in a phone interview that he was not responsible for creating the altered video and claimed that there were other admins on the Facebook pages who could have posted it. The Daily Bast described Brooks as a “Donald Trump superfan.”

Facebook also provided information about the other administrators involved in PoliticsWatchdog, according to The Daily Beast. The company official confirmed the existence of six other admins on the page. They reportedly deleted the accounts under their “real name” policy last week after determining all of the accounts were in Brooks’ name.

Brooks posted a screenshot on Facebook showing what he claimed were the identities of the other administrators. (RELATED: Daily Beast Outs ‘Culprit’ Behind Infamous Drunk Pelosi Video: A Black Forklift Operator From News York)

Internet privacy advocates are calling out Facebook for working with The Daily Beast. “They didn’t do anything illegal,”Aaron Mackey, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“They did not violate their own rules. But this is their responsibility. They make promises to users about how they protect people’s privacy,” he said, noting that Facebook’s decision to help out the reporter likely did not violate the company’s terms of service. Facebook has wide latitude to do with a person’s private data what it pleases.

Mackey added: “Facebook should be guarding this and not providing that information.”

The video created a maelstrom of controversy after The Washington Post reported its existence. Reporters cried foul after President Donald Trump’s private attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, posted the manipulated video on his Twitter with a caption questioning Pelosi’s mental state. He later deleted the tweet and said he did not know it was fake.

Trump, meanwhile, tweeted a separate video on May 24 in which someone spliced together a speech Pelosi gave at a news conference that made the California Democrat appear lost and confused. The president has been involved in a very public spat with Pelosi over policy differences. Trump’s family members have also gone after the California Democrat. Pressure for Facebook to ding the video grew into a roar shortly thereafter.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper grilled Facebook executive Monika Bickert during a May 25 interview.

“You have no problem removing 3.39 billion fake Facebook accounts from October through March,” Cooper said. “So why is it okay for you to remove fake Facebook accounts, but it’s not okay to remove a clearly fake video?” Bickert argued that the concern was removing the content that posed an actual threat to safety.

Neither Facebook nor The Daily Beast responded to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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