TThree days ago, a TikTok account of @deeptomcruise started posting music videos of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise doing everything from golf, tripping and telling a joke in what appears to be a men’s clothing store. in Italy, performing a magic trick with a coin. In each of the three videos, Cruise delivers his signature maniacal laugh – you know, the one he repeatedly elicited in that tough Scientology recruiting video years ago – before launching into some sort of bit, and in each of them it seems only like Cruise. Only it is do not Cruise.
There are of course some freebies. @deeptomcruise appears to be much younger than Xenu’s 58-year-old disciple, and much taller (real cruise is 5’6 ” on a good day). Plus her voice is hollow and squeaky, like in this scene Face / Off where John Travolta-as-Nicolas Cage tries to adjust his voice to that timbre of Cage-ian. Still, the Cruise TikToks have managed to baffle and horrify a number of people. As photographer Lauren White wrote, “Deep Scythes get scary and take over TikTok. Every public figure simply needs to be present with a verified account, even if they don’t want to create content, to make it easier to identify their counterfeits. “
@deeptomcruise trades in “deepfakes,” a combination term of “deep learning” and “fake” that MIT Sloan describes as “a specific type of synthetic media where a person in an image or video is exchanged with the likeness of a other person.” It’s quite alarming that even a fake cruise is gaining popularity on TikTok, the social media destination of choice for Gen Z, given Cruise’s role as Scientology’s most famous recruiter – and a man who Scientology whistleblower Leah Remini, personally punished her fellow Scientologists.
The @deeptomcruise account has accumulated 166K subscribers and it’s not over yet. (TikTok did not respond to requests for comment, including whether deepfakes violated their terms of service, per post.)
MIT Sloan provided the following description of how to create a “deepfake”:
To create 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 automatic encoder. [VAE]. VAEs are trained to encode images into low-dimensional representations, then decode these representations in pictures. For example, if you wanted to turn a deepfake video with Oscar-winning movie star Nicolas Cage, you would need two automatic encoders: one formed on images of the actor’s face and the other formed on images of the actor. ‘a great diversity of faces.
The face images used for the two training sets can be organized by applying a facial recognition algorithm to the video images to capture different poses and lighting conditions that occur naturally. After this training is complete, you combine the encoder trained on the various faces with the decoder trained on Nicolas Cage’s faces, which results in the actor’s face on someone else’s body.
This technology first emerged on Reddit in 2017 and resulted in a number of fake viral news pushed by former President Trump’s troll followers, including one of Nancy Pelosi appearing to insult her speech.
In August 2019, a deepfake video went viral of Bill Hader slowly transforming into Tom Cruise during an appearance by David Letterman in 2008. Its creator, a Slovakian 3D artist who went by “Tom,” said The Guardian that he had made about 20 deepfake videos using an open source program, each taking him between 3 and 5 days to create.
“It’s an arms race: someone is creating deepfakes, someone else is working on other technologies that can detect deepfakes,” Tom said. “I don’t really see it as the end of the world like most people do.”
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