Sophisticated TikTok Deepfakes Of Tom Cruise Prompt Future Misuse Concerns

Over the past couple of years, you've likely heard about the landmark imaging technology that allows people to realistically edit others into videos they were never in known as deepfaking.

Back in 2019, such technology allowed users of a certain app to edit themselves into famous movie scenes and also empowered Game Of Thrones fans to complain about the final season using the show's own characters.

But while that was already impressive and a little creepy at the time, it seems deepfake tech has advanced to the point where it's possible to make edited videos look almost indistinguishable from the genuine article.

And a recent example that saw what appeared to be Tom Cruise's TikToks explode online has made concerns regarding what could happen if this technology fell into less innocent hands all the more pressing.

Although we might not have realized it if this TikTok user's name wasn't an admission of using deep fake technology, this is not Tom Cruise.

As Fortune magazine reported, it's one of a recent batch of incredibly sophisticated deepfake videos that saw Belgian visual effects artist Chris Ume stitch together Cruise's face and footage of Miles Fisher, an actor known for impersonating the movie star.

And while it's difficult to appreciate out of context, this video and others created by Ume contain subtle flexes of his impeccable skills.

According to CNN, it's considered very difficult among those who create deepfakes to convincingly edit in people putting on articles of clothing.

And yet as you can see in the clip above, that apparently didn't stop Ume from showing "Cruise" putting on a hat and sunglasses without breaking our immersion.

Another of these videos achieves the similarly difficult feat of emulating a sudden movement by keeping the animation fluid and consistent when Fisher falls down.

According to Fortune, Ume takes a clear pride in his visual effects and machine-learning expertise as his website states, "I create the craziest videos and love humor. My talent is my eye for perfection and my high quality standards. I’d rather finish something I’m proud of than quick garbage."

This makes Ume part of a small community of people skilled enough with deepfake techniques to make them appear indistinguishable from real life.

It is likely this pedigree that led to his inclusion at Deep Voodoo Studio, which Fortune describes as a "dream team" of deepfake artists assembled by British comedian Peter Serafinowicz and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the show Sassy Justice.

The YouTube original is known for featuring an array of deepfakes of celebrities and politicians and in the latter case, we can get a sense of why the technology has been the subject of public concern since we've first heard about it.

Although it's not the only potential worry people could have about deepfakes, critics point to the technology's potential as a tool for misinformation.

After all, we've already seen that it's possible to make a realistic approximation of anyone you want say whatever you want them to with the right know-how.

And since existing misinformation campaigns have already shown serious consequences for public health and public discourse, it's easy to see why most people wouldn't want to see their spread enhanced by deepfakes.

In response to such concerns, Ume stated that deepfakes should encourage further skepticsm in what we're seeing and hearing.

As he put it, "People just have to learn to be more critical—that’s the point. They don’t have to be scared of deepfakes, because it probably existed even before you heard the word ‘deepfake.’ You just didn’t know it. At least now, you know it exists, and you know you shouldn’t believe what you see."

Curiously, we can now see that at the time of this writing, Ume appears to have removed all of his Tom Cruise deepfakes from the @deeptomcruise account.

Although we can't fully predict how deepfake technology will be applied in the future, concerns over its potential harms are nonetheless persisting.

After all, to what extent can we say that the public is already successfully resisting the lure of misinformation campaigns?

And if we find this resistance to be less than optimal, what reason do we have to expect it not to get worse as the means of waging these campaigns become more sophisticated?

h/t: Fortune

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