Altered videos of Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring words goes viral

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Videos posted to social media call into question Speaker Nancy Pelosi's sobriety. Her slurred speech and slow movement are the results of a manipulated video.

"It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out," CNET Editor at Large, Ian Sherr told ABC7 News. "There's a lot of expectation that stuff like what's happening to Speaker Pelosi is going to expand a lot."

So, what's happening? Touted as deepfake technology, it ultimately allows someone to create realistic videos of situations that never actually happened or ones that happened very differently.

"This is something that has a lot of potential to do a lot of harm, which is what we're starting to see a little bit of," Sherr added. "And it has potential to really revolutionize the world of animation and of entertainment."

Sherr continued, "A lot of these deepfakes have a twinge of not looking exactly the way they should."

Though, at a passing glance, many aren't be able to tell whether a video has been altered.

Sherr said deepfake technology relies on source footage. There is plenty of it when it comes to celebrities and politicians.

Edited video of Speaker Pelosi was taken during a recent speech at a Center for American Progress event on Wednesday.

The manipulated video was posted to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

YouTube has since removed it from its platform. A spokesperson said, "YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us. These videos violated our policies and have been removed. They also did not surface prominently. In fact, search results and watch next panels about Nancy Pelosi include videos from authoritative sources, usually at the top."

At the time this web article was posted, the videos remained on Facebook and Twitter. Between the two platforms, the altered video had more than 2.3 million viewers, and thousands of shares.

Political and tech experts explained this viral misinformation has the power to shape public perception, especially ahead of the 2020 election.

"We're concerned about false information because there's an intent for people to believe it's true," Electronic Frontier Foundation's Civil Liberties Director, David Greene said. "You don't have that with parody or satire."

"Because of deepfakes there's a lot of concern about manipulated video that didn't exist before," Greene continued.

He added, "I wouldn't suggest Nancy Pelosi sue anybody over this. It's been taken down. I don't know that it convinced anybody. She's a public figure, she's open to criticism."

But simple manipulation can be effective and believable to some.

However, others are convinced deep-fake technology is just another twist to political satire.

"Everything moves at an incredible speed now," San Jose State Univ. Political Science Professor, Larry Sokoloff said. "And something that we were just hearing about for the first time today has already been discredited."

"I think it's just a new twist on what's been around as long as we've had politicians where people attempt to make fun of people in their own way," he added.

Of course, this isn't the first time we're seeing deep-fake technology on social media. Tech experts warn the technology is advancing.

Sherr with CNET said, "At some point, in the not too distant future, we're not going to be able to tell that these videos are faked."
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