April 11, 2021


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How Worried Should You Be About Those Tom Cruise Deepfakes?

How Worried Should You Be About Those Tom Cruise Deepfakes?

Are the TikTok deepfake videos of Tom Cruise doing magic and playing golf a threat to global democracy? Not exactly. “[T]he reality is that they took a lot of time, technical expertise, and the skilled performance of a real actor,” reports VICE News. “Rather than predicting a dark future of disinformation for the masses, they’re simply another example of what can be done with significant time and resources.” From the report: The Tom Cruise videos, posted on the @deeptomcruise TikTok account, have been viewed over 11 million times on the app and millions more times on other platforms. The videos were suddenly deleted from the TikTok account on Wednesday morning, shortly after VICE News contacted the people who produced them. They show the fake Cruise playing golf, falling over while telling a story about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and finally, doing a close-up magic trick with a coin.

There’s no question the videos are really good. When scanned through several of the best publicly available deepfake detection tools, they avoided discovery. That led many to claim that a new threshold had been reached in deepfake sophistication, and that social media would soon be overwhelmed with similar videos. But that kind of analysis fails to take into account the amount of time, money, and skill it took to produce these videos.

They are the work of Belgian visual effects artist Chris Ume, who is part of a group known as Deep Voodoo Studio, a team of the world’s best deepfake artists assembled by the creators of the hit TV show “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The team worked with English actor Peter Serafinowicz to produce a 2020 YouTube show called “Sassy Justice,” which featured multiple deepfakes of celebrities and politicians. The Tom Cruise TikTok videos required not only the expertise of Ume and his team but also the cooperation of Miles Fisher, a well-known Tom Cruise impersonator who was behind a viral video in 2019 that purported to show Cruise announcing his candidacy for the 2020 election. Ume has even detailed some of the highly complex and involved technical processes he had to go through to produce previous deepfakes.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.