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Deepfake. The Tom Cruise case on TikTok

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A digital artist has created a TikTok account that looks like it is filled with videos of the famous actor, but it’s an illusion. Creator Chris Ume reassures: “it’s very difficult to make”

Deepfake Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise he hadn’t been in so many newspapers since he last jumped on Oprah Winfrey’s couch. Or rather, his face hadn’t appeared so long: because it’s not really Tom Cruise, but a series of deepfake sophisticated so convincing that they quickly reached nearly 12 million views on TikTok in a week.

DEEPFAKE TECHNOLOGY AND THE TOM CRUISE CASE

Deepfake is a technique based on Artificial Intelligence used to synthesize a human image: the image of a face can thus be superimposed on other bodies to create extremely credible but completely false videos. The account @deeptomcruise, which has attracted all this attention, has however fueled new fears about the potential, and the implications, of technology.

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MISTER ROBOT

The man behind the videos does not seem, for the moment, to be malicious: he is the Belgian visual effects expert Chris Ume, who underlined how the refinement of his videos is not easily replicable. “It’s a fantasy that people can do it from their computer: you can’t create art using a bicycle,” said Ume, a former cameraman who entered the visual effects field about five years ago. Ume, who is among the deepfake creators who have turned their hobbies into professional-grade jobs, began dabbling in synthetic media in 2018 after seeing a news bulletin on the subject. The hyperrealism achieved in these clips took months of preparation, and was made possible thanks to the videomaker’s skills in traditional and deepfake visual effects, high-end hardware and the talent of Tom Cruise’s look-alike, Miles Fisher.

HOW THE FALSE IS CREATED

Ume spent two months training an Artificial Intelligence program with a huge number of Cruise images so that she could create a digital replica. The videos, which are less than a minute long, took 24 hours of post-production each. The end results are surprisingly realistic. In one of the videos, the mock Cruise sports a coin trick, ending with the sentence “it’s all true”, followed by the actor’s typical laugh. In other videos, he can be seen playing golf or tripping over a carpet, without breaking the illusion.

THE REACTION OF SOCIALS TO DEEPFAKE

Deepfakes have been the subject of mistrust about the potential for disinformation since they emerged in 2017. Despite the fear, the examples applied to politics documented to date have been satirical or even educational: overemphasizing their prevalence could even risk giving politicians. a plausible chance of a loophole in real cases of wrongdoing. Several social media companies have taken steps to ban or limit deepfakes. Last August TikTok announced a ban on “Synthetic or manipulated content” and misleading, in January Facebook decided to ban deepfakes with exceptions for parody and satire, while Twitter’s policy is to tag tweets with manipulated or synthetic media, removing them only if they can cause harm.

– Giulia Giaume

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