ABC News announced Thursday it is expanding its social newsgathering team and renaming it the visual verification unit in an effort to combat fake news.
In a memo to the news division released online, ABC News president James Goldston explained, “As the threat of doctored video and disinformation becomes ever more sophisticated and prevalent, it’s essential that we protect the News Division and help our audience understand what is real and what isn’t.”
The note went on, “Their mission is simple – to do the essential detective work to determine if videos online are real or manipulated. This group of experts will use metadata, satellite imagery, input from partners like Storyful and an array of tools to assess if we can trust the video we see shared on social media.”
The team, according to Goldston, will be the “first line of defense” in making sure information presented to ABC News’ audiences is factual.
Other networks and outlets have demonstrated the ease with which a doctored video can be shared — and can bring them intense condemnation.
Fox Business Network earned a round of criticism in May 2019 after playing edited footage of Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show the Speaker of the House stumbling and stammering over her words during a press conference.
Efforts to combat the spread of such videos have cropped up, too. In May, a Facebook spokesperson talked to TheWrap about that same altered video of Pelosi circulating the site at the time: “Once the video was fact checked as false, we dramatically reduced its distribution. Speed is critical to this system, and we continue to improve our response. People who see the video in feed, try to share it from feed, or already shared it are alerted that it’s false.”