A video circulating on Facebook gives the impression that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke in a very slurred manner at a public event. That video isn’t an accurate representation of Pelosi’s speech — the audio is slowed down to a point that some social media users questioned whether she was drunk or medically impaired.
The video was posted on the Facebook page for an account called Politics WatchDog.
The Washington Post published a story May 23 headlined, "Faked Pelosi videos, slowed to make her appear drunk, spread across social media." The story included Politics WatchDog’s video and mentioned other videos posted on YouTube that slowed her speech or suggested Pelosi spoke drunkenly.
Politics WatchDog’s post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Pelosi on May 22 attended the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference and spoke about a failed meeting among President Donald Trump, Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. While they were supposed to talk about infrastructure, Trump walked out of the meeting, Pelosi said, questioning Trump’s intentions to work on policy. "It was very, very, very strange," Pelosi said of the brief encounter with Trump.
The real audio from C-SPAN is noticeably different than what Politics WatchDog posted.
We sent experts links to the Facebook post and to C-SPAN’s coverage of the event.
"The one on Facebook shows more slurred and lisping than the one on C-SPAN," said Siwei Lyu, an associate professor of computer science at the University at Albany, State University of New York, whose research includes digital media forensics.
Lyu analyzed the audio tracks and said there was "a clear frequency difference," with the audio on the Facebook video showing signs of stretching.
"I can hear artifacts in the audio that would be consistent with the video being slowed and the audio being stretched," said Cole Whitecotton, an IT professional at the National Center for Media Forensics at the University of Colorado Denver.
The Facebook video also contains duplicate frames, said Matthew C. Stamm, an assistant professor at Drexel University.
"The number and placement of duplicate frames in this video are unlikely to happen in an original video, and are a strong indicator that this video has been modified," said Stamm, who focuses on developing techniques to detect falsified images and videos.
It’s more difficult to prove whether the video was purposefully manipulated or just sounds different due to poor streaming or other video capture and encoding issues, experts said.
Politics WatchDog’s video has at least 2.4 million views and has been shared at least 47,000 times. We reached out to Politics WatchDog for comment but did not hear back by deadline.
"Just for the record we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country. For your information we are not a conservative news outlet. Washington Post is fake news!" Politics WatchDog wrote in a May 23 Facebook post.
Trump on May 23 tweeted a separate video also taking a jab at Pelosi. "PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE," Trump tweeted, along with a video from Fox Business which showed a compilation of instances in which Pelosi repeated, rephrased or stumbled over some words. Commentators in the video questioned "what’s going on" with Pelosi.
Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, on Twitter called the second video, the one in Trump’s tweet, "doctored" and linked to the Washington Post’s report of inaccurate videos about Pelosi growing on social media.
That second video is certainly edited to paint Pelosi in the worst light. But side by side footage of the video Trump shared with another version captured by journalists shows that Pelosi’s voice wasn’t manipulated. And, importantly, the video Trump shared on Twitter is not the same one that was posted by Politics WatchDog.
A viral Facebook video giving the impression that Pelosi slurred her speech at a public event isn’t an accurate account of how she spoke at the event.
We rate this post Pants on Fire.