A few weeks ago, I came across a funny video on YouTube. It was a TikTok video of Tom Cruise striking a golf ball with his club and joking, “If you like what you’re seeing, just wait ‘till what’s coming next.”
Innocent enough, right? But there is just one thing: The man in the video was not Tom Cruise. Although he had the swagger, the voice and the face of Tom Cruise, Cruise himself was not actually in the video — it was a deepfake.
For those who do not know, a deepfake is a form of manipulated media in which the face of an individual is superimposed onto the body of another in order to create a realistic video seemingly depicting that individual. Some of these videos can be lighthearted — like the one of Tom Cruise — but there are deepfakes that can be created in order to undermine a person’s reputation and deceive the viewer.
Earlier this month, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a high school cheerleader’s mother was accused of making deepfakes of her daughter’s cheer rivals in order to get them kicked off the team. These deepfakes — which showed the rivals smoking and drinking, among other things — were manipulated from social media photos, investigators of the case said, according to FOX 29 News.
Now, having a deepfake made of you to tarnish your reputation may seem like a scary thing — and it is. But there is some good news out there. According to SciTechDaily.com, computer scientists at the University of Buffalo have created a tool that can identify deepfakes by analyzing how the light reflects in the eye. Officials claim this tool is 94% effective when analyzing portrait photographs, according to the same website. This news can offer us a slight sigh of relief to know that technologies are being developed to combat manipulated media.
Still, there are undoubtedly those out there who will use deepfakes for their own advantage to try and undermine others. This makes it even more necessary to develop technologies to detect these hoaxes before they become overly realistic and begin to fool even more people. Deepfake detection needs to adapt as quickly as deepfakes themselves. Back in 2017, when the term “deepfake” was coined, it was easier to look at a deepfake and say to yourself, “Huh, something looks off.”
But deepfakes in 2021 — such as the ones of Tom Cruise — have definitely used more sophisticated technology to trick our eyes. It is easy to watch the Tom Cruise deepfakes and believe it is actually him in the video.
If one thing is for certain, it is that more deepfakes will be made and more people will be fooled. Before things get too out of hand, developing detection tools and informing viewers about these manipulated videos are key to ensuring that we do not always have to question what we see.