Internet | March 4, 2021 6:00 am

These Tom Cruise Deepfake TikToks Are Scarily Accurate

We've reached the age of the "undetectable deepfake," according to an expert.

Tom Cruise on the set of Mission Impossible 7
The real Tom Cruise smiling and waving to his fans on the set of "Mission Impossible 7" at the Imperial Fora in Rome.
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Im

Celebrity “deepfake” videos, which use doctored clips to make actors, politicians or other figures appear to be saying and doing whatever the person behind them wants, have been around for a while. But a new TikTok account devoted to deepfake Tom Cruise videos has taken the technology to a new level — and it’s raising concerns about the ethics behind the manipulated videos.

The account @deeptomcruise, which racked up a whopping 11 million views as of Tuesday before later being set to private, featured three clips that appear to show Cruise tripping and falling before telling a story about Mikhail Gorbachev, showing off his golf swing and demonstrating a magic trick. “I’m gonna show you some magic … It’s the real thing,” the fake Cruise says in the latter clip. “It’s all the real thing.”

The joke, of course, is that none of it is real. But the Cruise deepfakes are so realistic that they have some people concerned. “This is very much in the top 5 percent of deepfakes out there in terms of quality,” deepfake expert Henry Ajder told The Times of London, adding that it would have taken “many hours generating the faceswap and applying post-production edits” after an “excellent performance” by a Cruise impersonator.

While the account is now private — and it’s unclear what exactly prompted the switch — TikTok has said that it would not remove it because the @deeptomcruise name made it clear that it was not trying to deceive anyone into thinking it was the actual Tom Cruise. The platform said it would remove deepfakes “that mislead users by distorting the truth of events and cause harm to the subject of the video, other persons or society.”

But if the accuracy of the Cruise deepfakes is any indication, we could have plenty more to deal with in the near future. Rachel Tobac, the CEO of online security company SocialProof, tweeted that the videos are proof we’ve reached the age of  “undetectable deepfakes,” something that could present all sorts of problems.

“Just because you feel you can personally tell the difference between synthetic & authentic media, it doesn’t mean we’re good to go. It matters what the general public believes,” she wrote. “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.”

Though the Cruise TikToks are now private, they live on thanks to YouTube. You can check them out below.

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