Deepfake technology, aka the ability to use digital tools and AI to create a vaguely realistic looking video of somebody like usually a celebrity, has been around for several years. But with each year the technology gets better and better. Recently a batch of deepfakes that appear to show Tom Cruise doing magic tricks or telling jokes dropped online, and they're impressing a lot of people. While they never claimed to be the real thing and the videos are impressive from a technology standpoint, they have security analysts worried.
Deepfake technology utilizes footage of a real person, but uses digital imaging to replace their face-- sometimes also altering the voice. The results create a video that can put an actor into a movie they were never in. Those clips can be fun, but it could potentially be used for less humorous ends. NPR recently spoke to Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who told them that the technology is getting good enough, and easy enough to produce, that such videos could have much bigger consequences. According to Farid,
Now you have the perfect storm. I can create this content easily, inexpensively and quickly, I can deliver it en masse to the world, and I have a very willing and eager public that will amplify that for me.
The Tom Cruise videos in questions that have been published to TikTok were never meant to actually convince people it was Tom Cruise, the account itself is called DeepTomCruise, just to make it clear what's going on. The man who created the videos, Chris Ume, has said his goal was not to fool people, but rather to bring attention to just how good deepfakes can be specifically so that people are not fooled by them. You can check one of these viral videos below.
Professor Farid suggests that if one were to make a deepfake video of Jeff Bezos saying that Amazon's earnings had taken a hit, such a convincing video could impact the stock market before anybody took the time to realize it wasn't real. As such, there could be real material consequences to such creations. And looking at the Tom Cruise video here, it's hard to imagine such a thing isn't at least possible. There is still a feeling that this video doesn't look quite "right," but those red flags are much harder to see as technology continues to develop.
And the creator of these did not use tools that aren't readily available to others. So with enough time and practice, anybody could potentially do this, for any reason.