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Facebook Bans Deepfake Videos That Would Mislead the Average Person, Fails to Define 'Average Person'

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Deepfake video of President Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin, something that would presumably be recognized as satire
Gif: YouTube

Facebook announced overnight that it will ban any deepfake videos that wouldn’t be recognized by the average person as parody or satire. There was just one problem: the tech giant didn’t clearly define any of those terms. The Book of Faces didn’t bother to say what “parody,” “satire,” or “average person,” means, which will probably bite the company in the ass sometime soon.

“We are strengthening our policy toward misleading manipulated videos that have been identified as deepfakes,” Facebook’s Monika Bickert, Vice President of Global Policy Management, said in a blog post published late Monday.


Facebook laid out two primary considerations it will make before deleting a potential deepfake video, criteria that are obviously open to interpretation.

The first criteria for deletion, according to Facebook:

It has been edited or synthesized—beyond adjustments for clarity or quality—in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say.


The second criteria for deletion:

It is the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic.

“This policy does not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words,” Bickert wrote.

The problem, of course, is that Facebook never defines what the “average person” might think. Is Mark Zuckerberg an “average person”? Is President Donald Trump an “average person”? Most people obviously believe that they’re above average, but that can’t be true.


More importantly, everyone has a different idea of what parody and satire might be. Something that’s obviously a joke to one group of people can be taken literally by another group. As just one example, an article from the right-wing parody site The Babylon Bee went viral over the past few days with the title, “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani.” The post has been shared thousands of times, with many people clearly not realizing that it’s a joke.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for clarification early Tuesday.


The tech giant acknowledges that deepfake videos are still incredibly rare, but the company is clearly concerned with the proliferation of a technology that has the potential to cause a lot of confusion as the U.S. enters a chaotic election year.


It’s great to see Facebook trying to tackle disinformation on its platform, but it’s difficult to see how this is going to work in the real world. At the end of the day, the most persuasive argument regarding moderation on Facebook is that it’s simply too big to moderate at scale. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to combating disinformation on the platform and the company simply needs to be broken up. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, but we can dream.

In the meantime, get ready for a lot of whining about Facebook’s alleged discrimination against conservatives, something that’s complete bullshit as Facebook’s top brass continue to literally dine with the president.