The elaborate facemasks used in the Mission: Impossible franchise might look quaint in comparison to the work a Tom Cruise impersonator is pulling off on TikTok. A user with the account name @deeptomcruise is using Deepfake technology to create shocking videos of Cruise doing activities like golfing and magic tricks. In all three videos the impersonator has published so far, he has featured Cruise's trademark laugh. The videos have left TikTok users stunned, but they also highlighted how easily public figures could be impersonated using this tech.
The first video showed "Cruise" welcoming TikTok followers before taking a golf swing. In the second clip, he stopped by an Italian clothing store. The last one featured "Cruise" doing a magic trick with a coin. There are some very subtle hints to prove it is not the 58-year-old Cruise, as the impersonator is taller than the Top Gun star and the voice is a little deeper than Cruise's real voice. However, the effect was clearly enough to stump thousands of TikTok users.
Deep fakes are getting scary good and taking over TikTok. Every public figure should just be on there with a verified account - even if they don’t want to make content - to make it easier to identify their fakes. Here’s Tom Cruise: pic.twitter.com/xoSJt1bvVR— lauren white (@laurenmwhite) February 25, 2021
"This is fascinating and scary at the same time," one user wrote. "These deep fakes are getting worryingly good," another wrote. "How the heck can we trust what we see in TV and camera is who we think." Photographer Lauren White raised the same concern. "Deep fakes are getting scary good and taking over TikTok," White tweeted. "Every public figure should just be on there with a verified account - even if they don't want to make content - to make it easier to identify their fakes. Here's Tom Cruise."
"deeptomcruise" is utilizing Deepfake media, which replaces a portion of his real face with the likeness of Cruise. "To make a deepfake video, a creator swaps one person's face and replaces it with another, using a facial recognition algorithm and a deep learning computer network called a variational auto-encoder [VAE]," Matt Groh, a research assistant with the Affective Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab, explained to MIT Sloan.
The Daily Beast reached out to TikTok to learn if deepfakes violate its terms of service, but the social network has not responded. However, The Verge pointed out that TikTok does ban users from impersonating another person. "You may not... impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent you or your affiliation with any person or entity, including giving the impression that any content you upload, post, transmit, distribute or otherwise make available emanates from the Services," the terms read.