Facebook won’t remove doctored videos. Here are tools to help you verify content

Click to play video: 'Facebook launches tools to make advertising more transparent in lead-up to upcoming Canadian election'
Facebook launches tools to make advertising more transparent in lead-up to upcoming Canadian election
WATCH: Facebook launches tools to make advertising more transparent in lead-up to upcoming Canadian election – Jun 10, 2019

The debate around policing false and misleading content on social media has been top of mind for politicians and policy-makers with the federal election fast approaching.

Last month, an altered video of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been slowed down to make her appear to slur her words became a lightning rod for the issue after it was shared across Facebook millions of times.

Facebook Canada executives were grilled on the video by a panel of politicians from 11 countries last month but refused to take it down.

Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada, said it’s not the platform’s job to determine the line between “free speech” and “censorship.”

“If lawmakers, in their wisdom, want to draw the line somewhere north or south of censorship, we would obviously oblige with local law,” Chan told the committee.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Facebook says it won’t remove misleading content during Canada’s federal election

Now that manipulating photos and videos is easier than ever before, how is the average user supposed to navigate social media platforms, which have become battlegrounds for misinformation?

Here are some tips from experts when encountering content on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Consider the source

Padraic Ryan, head of news intelligence at Storyful, said that when assessing content on social media, it’s important to look at the source’s digital footprint (trail of user data), the account’s history and any related social profiles or websites.

Does that person have a history of posting reliable material or, for instance, does the person have a history of posting very obviously copied material or very obviously manipulated material?” Ryan said.

Story continues below advertisement

Storyful works with media companies — including Global News — to help verify breaking news and video around the world.

WATCH: Trudeau warns social media regulation could be used to repress citizens, stifle free speech

Click to play video: 'Trudeau warns social media regulation could be used to repress citizens, free speech'
Trudeau warns social media regulation could be used to repress citizens, free speech

Ryan said the Pelosi video was an interesting case, as it was quite apparent it had been altered. He said people who want to avoid falling for false or misleading content should challenge their beliefs when confronted with this kind of material.

“It spread rapidly because it fitted with people’s agendas,” Ryan said. “People need to ask themselves: are they happy to knowingly spread false information simply because it serves the political end? And would they be happy if other people, who perhaps were their political opponents, were doing something similar?”

Look at the date and location

Ryan said the other two important questions when interrogating content online are where was the photo taken, and what was the date?

Story continues below advertisement

“Our approach would be to encourage people to truly question their own take on something and to question whether something that seems too good to be true,” he said.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

An infamous example of this was an image posted to Instagram that alleged to show a child in Syria sleeping between his parents’ graves. It went viral, with people, including politicians, discussing it and even news agencies reporting on it.

Photo taken by photographer Abdel Aziz Al-Atibi. The boy in the photo is his nephew, and the image was taken for a conceptual art project. (@abdulaziz_Photo/Twitter)

A second photo released by the account revealed it was actually an art project, and the child was the photographer’s nephew.

Other things to think about are:

  • When was the source account created?
  • Does the account look real?
  • How often does the account post?
  • What is the account’s connection to the story?

Political advertising

Facebook Canada has unveiled a searchable advertising database that will give users a detailed look at how political parties and interest groups are spending money on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the 2019 election.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Facebook launching political ad transparency tools ahead of Canadian federal vote

Advertisers on Facebook will also have to confirm their identity and prove they are based in Canada. One of those steps involves Canada Post and “snail mail” to ensure that those who want to place political ads have a Canadian address.

The new measures are part of the company’s response to Bill C-76, the update to Canada’s federal election laws passed last December.

Spotting fake tweets or Twitter accounts

The tape may or may not be real, but this tweet isn’t. (Twitter)

When U.S. President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey in 2017, a tweet alleged to be from Comey that said “the pee tape is real” quickly began trending across Twitter.

Except the tweet wasn’t real.

Story continues below advertisement

A screenshotted tweet of someone saying something scandalous or compelling can fool anyone, but there are steps you can take to make sure you are not had.

READ MORE: Beware reports based on screenshotted tweets 

Look for the original tweet and ask yourself whether or not you trust the source.

When on Twitter, look for these hallmarks of a fake account:

  • Beware the egg: Has the person taken the time to upload a photo, or is it a picture of the default egg image?
  • Stock images: Right-click on the profile image and run it through Google Images to find out if the same image is being used elsewhere.
  • Where is the bio: Bios help followers know who you are. Accounts without them are a sign the account could be fake.
  • High volume: Look for an unrealistic number of tweets. More than 150,000 is a good sign of a fake account. Trump, a big fan of the platform, has tweeted just over 47,000 times.
  • Duplicate tweets: If the tweets are all @replies with the same text, that’s a good indication you have a bot account.

How to spot deepfake videos

Director Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed teamed up to make a PSA about the threat of the latest artificial intelligence being used to manipulate videos.

Story continues below advertisement

In the video, Peele ventriloquizes former U.S. president Barack Obama, who appears to discuss Black Panther and call Trump “a total and complete dips**t.”

The video was made using a combination of technology like Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp.

READ MORE: The sly ways anti-vaxxers are spreading misinformation online

While some researchers are working to develop tools to spot so-called deepfake videos, there are some steps everyone can take to become more media savvy.

Questions to ask yourself when seeing a provocative video are:

  • Where does this come from? Who is sharing it?
  • Have any legitimate media outlets corroborated it?
  • Does it even look or sound real? Signs of distortion and blurring can be clues the video is fake.
  • Would the person in the video actually say those things?

Real or fake news websites?

Since the 2016 U.S. election, websites masquerading as legitimate news sites have been widely debated, criticized and read.

READ MORE: More than 60% of web users support governments censoring fake news.

The issue popped up again recently when a website called CBTV published a fake story claiming Trudeau “pleaded with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to allow one million Nigerians enter Canada under a new Employment and Migration Programme [sic] designed for immigrants.”
Story continues below advertisement

The story, complete with fake quotes from Trudeau, was shared across Reddit and Facebook. Although the story was quickly discredited by the High Commission in Abuja, it renewed the debate about combating fake news.

If you want to avoid these types of sites, here are some tips:

  • Look at the domain or URL: Sites with endings like should raise eyebrows.
  • Read the “About Us” or “Principles and Practices” pages: Most news outlets will have sections about the company that runs them and a journalistic ethics statement. Also, look for information about the organization in places other than that site.
  • Look at who is quoted: Are they a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search?
  • What articles are being published? Look for a healthy cross-section of articles on different subjects. If they are all about George Soros, think twice about the site.

Other helpful websites to help in verification

  • Spokeo: Can help dig up more about the digital footprint of individuals in the U.S.  like social media accounts, email addresses and other contact information
  • Who.Is: Can help find more information about a website’s owner
  • Google Maps: Helps check the location of a video and cross-reference landmarks or features
  • Tineye and Google reverse image search: Can help ensure that pictures being portrayed as one thing haven’t been used elsewhere
  • Flickr or Jeffrey’s Exif viewer: Can help analyze metadata to determine location, the date an image was taken and other information
  • YouTube Data Viewer: Created by Amnesty International, this tool shows a video’s exact upload date and time, provides users with thumbnail images and also has the ability to search Google
  • Muck Rack: Lists thousands of journalists who are vetted by a team of Muck Rack editors
  • Linkedin: Compiles work history to provide additional means to track an individual down and verify the person’s identity or story

—With files from Patrick Cain


Sponsored content