Donald Trump’s ‘dezinformatsiya’ campaign using ‘deepfake’ video to attack Nancy Pelosi

Earlier this year I warned you about Donald Trump’s ‘dezinformatsiya’ campaign in 2020, employing the propaganda techniques and tactics that his campaign learned from Russian intelligence operatives in 2016.

One of the techniques which has been perfected since 2016, and which will become more prevalent in the 2020 campaign, is “deepfake” photos and videos.

Last year comedian and filmaker Jordan Peele and his production company teamed up with BuzzFeed to demonstrate a “deepfake” PSA with Barack Obama using a combination of old and new technology: Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp. Watch Jordan Peele use AI to make Barack Obama deliver a PSA about fake news.

Yeah, not so funny now. Right-wing media cut outs, some quite possibly tied to Russia, and no doubt in coordination with the Trump campaign, are using “deepfake” videos they created to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Washington Post reports, Faked Pelosi videos, slowed to make her appear drunk, spread across social media:

The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

The origin of the altered video remains unclear but its spread across social media comes amid a growing feud between congressional Democrats and Trump. In addition to links from multiple YouTube and Twitter accounts, the video has appeared in the comments sections of message boards and regional news outlets.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, tweeted a link to the altered video Thursday night with the note, “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.” The tweet has since been deleted.

On Thursday night, Trump tweeted a separate video of Pelosi — a selectively edited supercut, taken from Fox News, focused on moments where she briefly paused or stumbled — that he claimed showed her stammering through a news conference. The clip included roughly 30 seconds of Pelosi’s full 21-minute briefing on Thursday, in which she took questions from reporters and discussed what she called Trump’s “temper tantrum.”

Analyses of the distorted Center for American Progress video by Washington Post journalists and outside researchers indicate that the video has been slowed to about 75 percent of its original speed. To possibly correct for how that speed change would deepen her tone, the video also appears to have been altered to modify her pitch, to more closely resemble the sound of her natural speech.

The altered video’s dissemination highlights the subtle way that viral misinformation could shape public perceptions in the run-up to the 2020 election. Spreaders of misinformation don’t need sophisticated technology to go viral: Even simple, crude manipulations can be used to undermine an opponent or score political points.

Clipping politicians’ speech into videos designed to disparage or embarrass them is nothing new. But the outright altering of sound and visuals signals a concerning new step for falsified news, as presidential campaigns and their supporters battle to boost political messages and influence people online.

“There is no question that the video has been slowed to alter Pelosi’s voice,” said Hany Farid, a computer-science professor and digital-forensics expert at University of California, Berkeley.

* * *

Facebook said late Thursday that the video had been “enqueued” for review by third-party fact-checkers, but that the process had not yet begun. If the video is deemed misleading, the company said it would “significantly reduce the distribution of this video in News Feed.” By Thursday evening, the video remained online.

Yet another Facebook fail.

YouTube spokesman Farshad Shadloo said the Pelosi videos violated company policies and have been removed. They did not appear prominently on the site, he added, and searches for Pelosi-related videos surface content from more authoritative sources.

Pelosi’s voice was distorted in a separate YouTube video, posted earlier this month by a conservative channel with more than 28 million total views. That video slowed a speech Pelosi had given to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association to make her words sound notably slurred. That video appeared to be a version of another video with roughly 200,000 views, in which a man laughed over of a spliced montage of her speech. The original audio shows no such distortion.

* * *

Pelosi has been the target of similar efforts before. A video last year from The Next News Network, a conservative YouTube channel with more than 1 million subscribers, said Pelosi was “fumbling” her speech because she was drunk or “pretty sick.” The channel’s owner did not respond to requests for comment.

A YouTube channel called The American Mirror posted a video saying Pelosi garbled her words and suffered an “awkward 5-second brain freeze” at a speech earlier this month. That channel, which is almost entirely dedicated to videos crafted to criticize or embarrass female Democratic leaders such as Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, has more than 30 million total views.

And what is the Russian intelligence troll farm doing to create and/or to disseminate these “deepfake” videos of Nancy Pelosi to its list of targeted voters that they developed in 2016? How many of these “conservative’ websites are actually Russian intelligence, or spreading Russian propaganda? Could this be why there are millions of hits for what otherwise would be an obscure video that no one would ever see?

Donald Trump’s Twitter attack appeared hours after even Fox News debunked the fake videos being pushed online by far-right activists. Trump rage tweets at Pelosi with discredited doctored video — even after Fox News called it fake:

President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted a discredited video that was doctored to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk.

Trump’s Twitter attack appeared hours after even Fox News debunked the fake videos being pushed online by far-right activists.

“Numerous doctored video clips of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, are spreading on social media, deceptively portraying her as if she were intoxicated,” Fox News reported.

The Daily Beast reports, Team Trump, Including a Fox Host, Go All-In on Pushing Doctored Pelosi Videos:

Just hours after having multiple senior aides vouch for his calm state of mind after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused him of a temper tantrum, President Trump took to Twitter late Thursday to push an edited video of the top Democrat supposedly “stammering” through a news conference, jumping on a conspiracy-theory bandwagon that had been raging on social media throughout the day.

The video, which was first aired by the Fox Business Network and appeared to have been cleverly edited to make Pelosi’s speech seem impaired, came after several doctored videos purporting to show a “drunk” Pelosi slurring her words spread like wildfire on social media, all while Trump tried to convince the public that Pelosi was not to be taken seriously because she is “crazy” and “a mess.”

Even Fox News reported that the videos were doctored, but that didn’t stop Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani from tweeting out a link to one of the already debunked videos late Thursday.

* * *

Frequent Fox Business guest Ed Rollins on Thursday backed up the president’s earlier assertion that Pelosi is a “mess,” citing the edited video as evidence that the speaker is inarticulate and therefore unwell. Prior to Rollins’ remarks, guest host Gregg Jarrett had played a highly edited and manipulated clip of Pelosi speaking earlier in the day that made it appear that she stammered and struggled through a press conference.

Notably, the clip repeatedly replays Pelosi saying the number three while holding up two fingers, something Jarrett mocked immediately afterward.

Fox issued a statement after the segment defending the video.

“The FOX Business segment featuring clips from Speaker Pelosi’s speech today did not slow down any aspect of her address,” the network said.

Meanwhile, Rollins and Jarrett weren’t the only ones implying that Pelosi didn’t have all her mental faculties during Thursday’s Lou Dobbs Tonight broadcast. Pugnacious former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski seemingly referenced the doctored videos while criticizing Pelosi’s remarks about Trump’s current mental fitness.

“Can you imagine, for one second if that was a Republican questioning Nancy Pelosi’s mental fitness?” Lewandowski exclaimed. “The way she slurs and repeats herself. They would be called racist, misogynist, xenophobic and every other word possible.”

Trump quickly fed Fox’s claims back out to the Twitterverse, seizing on the network’s coverage to lend some legitimacy to the whole thing. “Nancy Pelosi should not be out there doing the kinds of things she is doing,” the president tweeted, quoting Rollins. “She will diminish herself and her membership. She cannot put a subject with a predicate in the same sentence. What’s going on?”

During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Trump and his allies relentlessly peddled unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s mental and physical health. Those theories only gained more steam after she nearly passed out at a 9/11 memorial from what was later diagnosed as walking pneumonia.

This was heavily promoted by the Russian intelligence troll farm on social media. Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say:

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)

This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

As the Post reported, “Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet” in 2016 — and it happening again, right now.

Not only has the Trump administration done nothing to stop foreign propaganda attacks in our elections, they are actively and gleefully participating in them. This is “collusion.” It is un-American and should not be tolerated by any patriotic loyal American.

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