The Bulletin

Wexton grills Zuckerberg on doctored Pelosi video; Riggleman won’t play ‘stump the dummy’

By: - October 24, 2019 12:08 am

House Financial Services Committee member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) questions Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency Libra, how his company will handle false and misleading information by political leaders during the 2020 campaign and how it handles its users’ data and privacy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that he was personally involved in his company’s handling of a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that portrayed her as drunk.

Zuckerberg’s comments came in response to questioning from U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a freshman Democrat from Northern Virginia’s 10th District.

Asked whether he played a role in deciding whether to keep up the video that went viral or to take it down, Zuckerberg paused and then said “yes.”

He said the decision to leave it up followed company policy. But he noted that the controversial video highlighted the need for a separate policy to address “deep fakes” — fake audio or video recordings that look and sound like they’re real. The company is now developing such a policy, he said.

He also cited an “operational mistake” that led to a delay in the company’s fact-checking process in the case of the Pelosi video.

“Do you understand there’s a difference between misinformation and disinformation?” Wexton pressed, pointing out that disinformation carries a deliberate intent to mislead people.

“Yes,” Zuckerberg responded. “It’s not that it’s not our responsibility or that it’s not good to take that into account. It’s just that it’s much harder to determine intent at scale.”

The exchange took place during a heated hearing Wednesday in the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, during which Democratic lawmakers bashed Zuckerberg over his company’s failure to stop the spread of false information.

The video, seen widely across the internet and shared by President Donald Trump, slowed Pelosi’s speech to make her sound as if she were slurring her words.

Experts flagged it as a digital manipulation, but Facebook did not immediately take it down. “We don’t have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true,” the company told The Washington Post.

The company announced new efforts to address misinformation during the 2020 elections cycle.

Virginia Republican Denver Riggleman (5th District) also sits on the committee. But he went decidedly easier on the young executive.

“I think your life story is impressive,” he said, praising Zuckerberg’s “ingenuity” and “hard work.” He said he would not play “stump the dummy” with Zuckerberg — alluding to the lines of harsher questions from his colleagues across the aisle.

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Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens

Allison Stevens is an independent writer, editor, and communications strategist in Northern Virginia. She can be reached at