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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty

An altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that shows her speaking slowly as if drunk is spreading on social media.

Why it matters: The clip, which appears to have been slowed to make Pelosi's speech sound slurred, has found traction on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, highlighting how easily even the simplest manipulated media can mushroom on social platforms.

“There is no question that the video has been slowed to alter Pelosi’s voice,” Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at UC Berkeley, told the Post's Drew Harwell.

  • Clips from the same speech shared by news organizations show her speaking at an average speed.
  • The video has already been watched tens of thousands of times.

The big picture: Experts are wringing their hands over the potential for deepfakes — AI-manipulated videos, audio and photos — to stir up political mayhem. But so far, the vast majority of media altered to mislead has been extremely simple.

  • The easiest way to confuse is just to take a photo or video out of context, mislabeling or mischaracterizing it. A common example: archived clips of missile strikes in Iraq repurposed to look like a new American or Russian attack in Syria.
  • Bad Photoshops fall into this category, too. It doesn't take much to put a political leader in a seemingly compromising situation with an altered photo.

Here, a simple slowdown — while preserving the speaker's pitch — is paired with an explicit claim that Pelosi is intoxicated. One example video description from YouTube, paired with a copy of the video uploaded by a user with a Trump campaign sign avatar:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunk giving an interview babbling about President Trump being involved in a "cover up" They didn't embarrass themselves enough on the "Russian Collusion" thing. Share this disgrace...

President Trump tweeted a different video of Pelosi on Thursday evening, this one edited to highlight moments in a recent speech where she stumbled or stuttered. It did not appear to have been otherwise manipulated.

What they're saying: Social media platforms must balance the potential dangers of misinformation with free speech concerns when deciding what to do with videos like this one.

  • YouTube took down the video after Axios asked Google, its parent company, for comment. In a statement, a spokesperson said the videos, which violated YouTube policy, "did not surface prominently," and that searches for Nancy Pelosi returned videos from "authoritative sources."
  • Facebook said the video was sent to a fact checker, but that by 4 pm Pacific, none had rated the video. If they were to rate the video as misleading, Facebook says it would reduce its distribution in users' newsfeeds — but not take the clip down.
  • Twitter declined to comment on the record. The clip remains viewable on Twitter.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
18 mins ago - Podcasts

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek does a podcast on the future of podcasts

Spotify on Wednesday reported significant ad revenue growth from its podcast business, as part of its quarterly earnings disclosure.

Take a listen: Company founder and CEO Daniel Ek appeared on the Axios Re:Cap podcast to discuss how the podcast business model is changing, why he's spending big on exclusive shows and his personal favorites in both podcasting and music.

Updated 58 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group reaches agreement on $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

After weeks of long nights and endless Zoom calls, a bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure package, GOP senators involved in the talks announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It could be days before the group finishes writing the bill, but the Senate can begin debating the legislation in earnest now that they have resolved the outstanding issues. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.

After walkout, Activision Blizzard employees vow to keep fighting

Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Organizers of a Wednesday walkout at Activision Blizzard, the gaming company behind "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft," are saying the demonstration "is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore.”

Why it matters: Within the video game industry, sweeping promises for change are often followed by a handful of half-measures that fail to solve the systematic problems that caused them.

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