Have you seen that viral video of Tom Cruise doing magic tricks? Well, it’s not really the Syracuse-born actor, but it’s certainly a trick.
The Times of London reports three videos that use artificial intelligence technology to make a TikTok user look like Cruise have gone viral on social media. The account, @deeptomcruise, already has 11 million combined views, 1 million likes, and 342,000 followers.
“It’s the real thing,” the supposed Cruise says.
But none of them actually feature the “Mission: Impossible” star.
Chris Ume, a video visual effects specialist from Belgium, told Fortune magazine that he created the videos but it’s unclear who is portraying the celebrity. Cruise impersonator Evan Ferrante told the publication Mic that he believes it’s another actor named Miles Fisher, who resembles Cruise and has done impressions of him in the past.
“I’ve also been using deepfakes, working with the best people in the industry doing it, from Collider TV and Corridor Digital to just individuals who work with software and are the go-to technicians out there. But this one is getting a lot of acclaim, because again, the technology just keeps getting better and better. People are drawn to illusion and people are drawn to lookalikes for some reason, because people like to be fooled or question things,” Ferrante told Mic.
“Deepfakes” refer to media generated and manipulated by A.I., most frequently by swapping one person’s head or face onto another person’s body. In the case of video, images can be grabbed from multiple sources — such as photos or clips from Cruise’s blockbuster movies — to create the animated fake using machine learning to show how the face looks from multiple angles in different lighting and movements.
MIT Technology Review says most deepfakes since late 2018 have been used for nonconsensual porn, such as putting an ex-girlfriend’s head on an adult film star’s body. The technology has also been used to put Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Back to the Future” and ancestry company MyHeritage uses it to animate old photos of relatives through a program called Deep Nostalgia.
Another recent deepfake video convincingly inserted “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown into “Star Wars” as Carrie Fisher’s character, Princess Leia.
Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in the analysis of digital images, told Fortune magazine that the Tom Cruise deepfakes are “incredibly well done.” In the video where Cruise seems to perform a magic trick with a coin, the only evidence they’re fake is when his eye color and eye shape — as well as light reflected in Cruise’s iris — briefly change at the end of the clip.
TikTok told the Times that it does not allow digital forgeries “that mislead users by distorting the truth of events and cause harm to the subject of the video, other persons or society.” However, it allows “deeptomcruise” to remain active because the username makes it clear they were not trying to trick viewers.
Still, the tech’s rapid growth has raised questions about copyright infringement, internet security, revenge porn, and political propaganda. What’s to stop someone from creating a video that looks like a candidate saying or doing something they didn’t really say or do?
Ajder said the Cruise videos are entertaining, but “there is also a huge amount of really negative and malicious use cases.”
Rachel Tobac, the CEO of online security company SocialProof, told the New York Post that the Cruise videos are so well done that its implications are scary.
“Deepfakes will impact public trust, provide cover & plausible deniability for criminals/abusers caught on video or audio, and will be (and are) used to manipulate, humiliate, & hurt people,” Tobac said, adding they had “real world safety, political etc impact for everyone.”
Cruise, who was born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1962, has not commented on the videos.