Nancy Pelosi, the 79-year-old speaker of the House of Representatives, has been a frequent target for President Donald Trump and his political allies. This week, she became the subject of an unusual viral video intentionally slowed down to create the impression of slurred speech, which proliferated across Facebook and other social media platforms with the help of, among many others, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
As of this afternoon, Facebook has decided to allow the controversial and misleading video to remain on its platform indefinitely—but there’s a catch.
First, the video will appear alongside a related article from a third-party fact-checking website (which, ostensibly, will point out that the video is indeed altered—though no such context appears directly on the video page itself.) And secondly, while the post will remain hosted and available, Facebook claims it will limit its reach on the platform, though by what amount or exact means remains unknown. In other words, it’s trying to find a middle ground on a politically potent piece of content.
Prior to this action, the video, which was posted by a page called Politics Watchdog, had already racked up an estimated 2.5 million views.
These sorts of hoaxes are old hat for social media, which has carried everything from Hillary Clinton allegedly posing beside a confederate flag, photos of Trump made to look either thinner or more rotund, edited video of Trump making a weird snake noise, and a host of anti-Clinton conspiracies about the then-candidates mental and physical health. What seems to have helped this Pelosi video take off is that it’s just subtle and low-tech enough to not immediately scan as bullshit for many folks casually browsing the endless stream of visual junkfood that is Facebook’s News Feed buffet.
Where propaganda is concerned, that’s arguably the most dangerous kind—though as a Facebook representative explained in an email to Gizmodo, there’s no policy that information posted to the platform necessarily has to be factual.