Video footage that was slowed down to give the false impression that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was slurring her words is circulating widely across social media platforms.
The distorted video is based on real footage from a Center for American Progress conference in Washington on Wednesday, showing the Democratic leader referencing her claim that President Donald Trump was engaged in a cover-up. As of early Friday, the altered version had raked in millions of views.
One version posted on Facebook by conservative site Politics WatchDog has been viewed 2.3 million times, and it was also circulating widely on YouTube and Twitter.
Associated Press journalists did a side-by-side comparison of the false video with C-SPAN footage and concluded that the altered video had been slowed down. AP journalists who monitored the event said Pelosi appeared coherent throughout.
According to the Washington Post, which first reported the doctored video, the pitch of Pelosi’s voice had also been altered to disguise the fact that the video had been slowed.
“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 report says.
Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said the video had been slowed down by 75 percent, creating a significant distortion in Pelosi’s speech.
“It is not somebody using the latest technology,” Farid said. “Anybody can do this.”
Experts on “deepfake” videos have been warning about the potential of digitally altered videos to push fraudulent claims.
The video emerged as the relationship between Trump and Pelosi has deteriorated into her questioning his fitness for office and the president attacking her sanity. Early Wednesday, Pelosi said she believed Trump had engaged in a cover-up of the Russia probe. Pelosi repeated her comments about Trump later at the conference.
Trump on Thursday tweeted a separate Fox News video of Pelosi which appeared to have been edited to focus on sections of a speech in which she stuttered and mispronounced certain words, with the caption “Pelosi stammers through news conference.”
“PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” pic.twitter.com/1OyCyqRTuk
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019
Posts claiming Pelosi appears drunk or sluggish during events often make the rounds on social media following her press conferences.
Contacted about the video Friday, a Pelosi spokesman referred to a tweet from the speaker the day before. The tweet was in response to Trump’s criticism of Pelosi. “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” Pelosi’s tweet said.
Farid said the latest video is reminiscent of an altered video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta that was tweeted out by the Trump administration last year.
“What worries me is that these dumb fakes have whipped up the president, the White House, Giuliani and his supporters,” he said, referring to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. “What is going to happen when you get these sophisticated fakes?”