X takes action on deepfake network smearing UK politicians after BBC investigation

Social media site X has taken action against a network smearing UK politicians, including Labour’s Wes Streeting, with doctored clips – removing several accounts and posts.

It comes after a BBC investigation – part of its Undercover Voter project – revealed how a group of accounts had been creating and sharing the deepfake images ahead of the general election.

The accounts then posted misleading comments to bolster the impression the clips were real.

This is the first time X has responded to allegations I have raised with them in more than 12 months. I have contacted them more than a dozen times previously with no response.

Elon Musk bought the social media company, formerly known as Twitter, in 2022 and made various changes to the site.

This involved mass job losses, including in the social media site’s communications team.

At one point, emails to X’s press office triggered an automatic reply featuring a poo emoji. Now, the automatic response says “Busy now, please check back later”.

An X spokesperson told the BBC: “X has in place a range of policies and features to protect the conversation surrounding elections.

“We will label content that violates our synthetic and manipulated media policy, and remove accounts engaged in platform manipulation or other serious violations of our rules.”

A stylised image of the 'Men for Wes' post on X
The account sharing the fake video of Wes Streeting called him a “disgraceful human being”

While some of the fake clips and comments shared by this group of accounts on X were clearly absurd and satirical, others falsely portrayed candidates saying politically damaging things.

In the comments, the network of X users works to make them appear believable. The videos have racked up tens of thousands of views.

One post included a doctored video of Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, on the BBC’s Politics Live show. As the presenter discusses politician Diane Abbott, the footage is made to sound as though Mr Streeting is saying “silly woman” under his breath – but he never said those words.

The clip was shared by a user called Men for Wes who, in the comments, expressed outrage at the “really nasty people” in the Labour Party. Other users swarmed in the comments to endorse the clip as real. Mr Streeting denounced the clip as fake.

A stylised Twitter screenshot of Wes Streeting denouncing the video as fake
Wes Streeting denounced the clip as a fake

Several hours after being shared, the doctored clips of Mr Streeting was labelled as fake by X’s reader-operated fact check service. Faked clips of Labour candidate Luke Akehurst, Keir Starmer and Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage were also posted by these accounts.

Following my investigation, the Men for Wes account has been suspended by X and the videos from its account are no longer visible on the site. Some of the other profiles have also been removed.

A spokesperson from X also told the BBC how more than “500,000 contributors in 70 countries” are participating in Community Notes, X’s reader-operated fact check service.

It said in the UK the social media company is “supporting efforts to increase digital literacy during the election period”.

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