House Democrats tweak deepfake rule to court GOP
House Democrats today presented a rules package giving the Ethics Committee a year to recommend how it will deal with members who disseminate false and unverified content on social media.
Why it matters: The Democrat-led Rules Committee changed its rules package after Republicans claimed an original proposal to make it an ethics violation for disseminating so-called deepfakes would infringe on their First Amendment rights. The package was being voted on today.
The backstory: Last year, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) posted a manipulated photo on Twitter purporting to show President Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Obama and Rouhani never met in person.
- The real photo was taken in 2011, and it showed Obama shaking hands with then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- President Trump also shared a fake video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Facebook and Twitter purporting to show her slurring her words during a news conference.
Republicans publicly criticized the rule after House Democrats delivered a progressive rules package to launch the 117th Congress packed with ways to advance diversity and inclusion.
- For the first time, it proposed a rule making it an ethics violation for members to disseminate unverified content. That rule was tweaked after the GOP complaints.
- Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, said in a statement issued Saturday the rule was "rife with the possibility of abuse and likely to be enforced in a way that creates a double standard between the majority and minority."
- And during a speech to present Nancy Pelosi as speaker Sunday night, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy chimed in with his own critique.
- “They would penalize any member who shares news or views that liberals and their allies in the media deem 'fake,'" McCarthy said. "They actually make it an ethics violation — which is usually reserved for such unbecoming conduct as bribery and corruption."
What they’re saying: House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said in prepared remarks: “I’ll note that we initially planned to go even further — amending our Code of Conduct with this rules package — but we heard some of our colleagues’ concerns. We agreed to take a little more time to get the language just right.”
Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that the manipulated photo Gosar posted on Twitter was of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (not Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani).