The Problem with Deep Fakes

Deep fakes, as explained in this article from The Guardian, use an artificial intelligence tool called deep learning to create content that depicts fake events.

By now, you have probably seen deep fakes on the internet, even if you did not know that they were fake. The video below, for example, went viral a few years ago. This deep fake video depicts actors Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland as characters in the movie Back to the Future, which came out in 1985, over a decade before Holland was even born.

Recently, the use of deep fakes has spread to TikTok, and many users on this platform are confused. I came across the viral Tweet below a few days ago, and I decided to find this account and check out some of its videos.

When I went to this account, I noticed that, as I am writing this, the first video posted has 20.6 million views, 2.4 million likes, and 38.7 thousand comments, which demonstrates that this account has reached a large audience. There is no way to alert viewers that this is a fake video, other than the #robertpattinsonedit tag used in the caption, which people might not pay attention to.

The most recent video, as of this writing, has multiple comments asking whether this is real or fake. There are comments making jokes about it, but there are other users that are genuinely confused.

Comments under the Robert Pattinson deep fake videos showing people making jokes and being confused.
Comments under the Robert Pattinson deep fake videos showing people making jokes and being confused.

Other deep fake accounts, such as this one for Tom Cruise, have also become more popular in recent months. This account, which goes by the username @deeptomcruise, has even created collaborative videos with real celebrities, such as the video below with Keegan-Michael Key.


When jokes fly over your head 😂✌️@Keegan-Michael Key

♬ origineel geluid – Tom

The Harry Styles deep fake below, while less convincing, is another example of someone creating a deep fake of a celebrity.


#HarryStyles loves his berries! 🍓🍓 @hshq Inspo: @aj.goldie #deepfake #watermelonsugar

♬ harry wants berries – nick

Although they are concerning, these celebrity deep fakes are mostly harmless. These examples do not depict celebrities in an inappropriate situation or saying anything controversial, so they are not necessarily a problem.

As the use of deep fakes continues to rise, however, the impact could become disastrous. According to this CNN article, the use of this technology has been used recently in multiple attempts to affect the war between Ukraine and Russia by depicting their leaders saying things they did not actually say. These deep fakes include a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yielding to Russia and another video of Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring peace. 

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s response to the deep fake

In addition to these issues, Sam Gregory, who is described as a deep fake expert in this WIRED article, claims that deep fake detection is not well-developed. This can cause problems in more drastic and impactful situations, such as the ongoing war.

In this post, I discussed what deep fakes are and the problems associated with them. In a future blog post, I am looking forward to exploring how deep fakes can be beneficial.

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