Tom Cruise Isn’t On TikTok: It’s a Shockingly-Realistic Deepfake [Updated]

Update on 3/05/2021: The creator of the deeptomcruise account today revealed that it was a stunt. Masterminded by visual effects expert Chris Ume, the goal was to draw attention to deepfakes and petition for their regulation.

Ume tapped Miles Fisher, one of the world’s most renowned Tom Cruise impersonators to work with him to create the short videos on TikTok. It is much easier to create a believable deepfake when the subject looks similar to the subject that is trying to be copied. Even with Fisher however, Ume says the process to create these startlingly realistic videos required feeding more than 20,000 images of the actor’s face from different angles and lighting conditions into his computer. That process, according to The Verge, took more than two months to base train the AI.

Ume, a resident of Hasselt, Belgium, is considered to be one of the world’s best at creating high-quality deepfakes, according to The Times. The “deeptomcruise” stunt was designed to bring more attention to the technology.

“I think there should be laws that help with the responsible use of AI and deepfakes, that’s important. There’s always going to be a misuse of this technology, you can’t avoid that,” Ume says.

Original story published on 03/02/21:

A TikToker is using deepfake technology to impersonate Tom Cruise on the social media platform and the results are so realistic that some may mistakingly believe it actually is the famed actor. This latest situation has again raised concerns about the creation and use of deepfakes.

While the account is clearly making folks aware that this isn’t the real Tom Cruise — the username is deeptomcruise, for starters– those not paying attention can easily mistake what they’re seeing for the genuine article. Even without seeing the username, the video isn’t quite perfect (The Verge notes that the lip-syncing is off in places and the voice isn’t quite right).


♬ original sound – Tom



♬ original sound – Tom

The most recent video, uploaded four days prior to publication, is the most realistic of the batch and depicts the Cruise impersonater performing a magic trick.


I love magic!

♬ original sound – Tom

Again, looking closely reveals that something is amiss, but no doubt this video would fool many and it’s clearly close enough to raise the alarm as multiple publications have weighed in on the account that is once again causing some to question the legality of deepfakes.

Overall, the account has more than 10 million views, 1.1 million likes, and over 370,000 followers. On Tuesday afternoon, coverage of the account reached a fever pitch and was trending on Twitter.

According to TikTok’s own terms of service, the Tom Cruise impersonation videos should be a violation:

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

Yet days after the initial story of the account’s viral spread broke, the videos remain on the platform.

The artificial intelligence at the core of deepfakes is becoming easier to not only access, but use. Despite the many tools available to combat it, deepfakes detectors can still be fooled and have tested social media company’s abilities to stop them, including Facebook. Some speculate that overall fake news and faked content could cost the economy $39 billion a year.

Meanwhile, companies like Adobe and newcomer Hour One are helping create technology that not only makes creating fake images, expressions, or entirely artificial people easier to access, but also easier to deploy and use every day.

With the speed that technology is advancing, there is an argument that steps to protect people aren’t moving nearly fast enough to keep pace. Some experts even go so far as to say that sharing a deepfake should be a crime.

Whatever the case, it seems that with each passing month a new, better, more convincing iteration of deepfake technology arises. How, if at all, society will decide to meet this is still to be determined.