Even More Celebrities Battle Deepfakes of Themselves

Cybercriminals have stepped up using AI tools to create deepfakes of celebrities, commandeering their likenesses to dupe their fans out of their money and cryptocurrency—with one report claiming such content grew by 87 percent in the last year.

On Monday, YouTube giant Mr. Beast notified his over 24 million Twitter followers that he had been the victim of one such scheme—and questioned whether tech companies were capable of stopping them.

“Lots of people are getting this deepfake scam ad of me,” Mr. Beast wrote. “Are social media platforms ready to handle the rise of AI deepfakes?”

“They are not, and neither is democracy,” podcast host, science communicator, and poker champion Liv Boeree replied.

A deepfake is video or audio content created with generative artificial intelligence that depicts false events but is done in a way to be easily confused with legitimate and genuine content.

The concern around AI-generated deepfakes has world leaders, policymakers, and law enforcement echoing Boeree’s sentiment and sounding the alarm.

Mr. Beast, whose real name is James Donaldson, is only the latest celebrity to have their likeness used in an online scam or campaign without their permission. On Sunday, legendary actor Tom Hanks took to Instagram to warn his fans of a campaign advertising a dental plan that used an AI-generated version of the Academy Award-winning entertainer. Meanwhile, an Instagram post from the daughter of the late Robin Williams also decried campaigns using a replica of her father’s voice in commercial content.

Several television news personalities have also turned up in viral deepfake content, including CBS’ Gayle King, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, and HBO’s Bill Maher.

More prurient interests are also being courted, with the visages of female actors like Taylor Swift, Natalie Portman, and Emma Watson being increasingly exploited in deepfake pornography, according to a Sunday report by the Daily Mail. Citing security firm ActiveFence, the report claimed that the amount of celebrity deepfake porn grew by 87 percent over last year—and private individuals were being exploited 400 percent more.

Mr. Beast has not yet responded to Decrypt’s request for comment.

AI is one of the key issues in ongoing negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). And some actors are taking the issue with AI deepfakes to court and winning.

Last month, popular Indian actor Anil Kapoor won a judgment in the Delhi High Court against the unauthorized use of his name, image, and voice. And while Tom Cruise has not publicly spoken about it, an AI deepfake of him went viral last year after it was uploaded on social media.

The team behind the “Deep Tom Cruise” videos went on to found AI development firm Metaphysic AI.

Launched in 2021 by Chris Ume, Kevin Ume, Miles Fisher, Tom Graham, and Martin Adams, the London-based Metaphysic was featured on “America’s Got Talent” in September of last year, when its technology showcased an AI-generated Elvis Presley for a one-night-only performance.

Metaphysic says that along with Tom Hanks, other entertainers—including Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer—have used its technology to create and store the characteristics that are needed to create a legal digital avatar of their likenesses.

Representatives for Hanks, Spencer, and Hathaway have declined or not returned Decrypt’s request for comment.

Actors are not the only performers getting the AI treatment: in August, singer Selena Gomez was the subject of an audio AI deepfake posted to Instagram that featured a fake version of the performer singing a remix version of The Weeknd’s “Starboy.”

The Weeknd was also the subject of an AI-generated deepfake collaboration with a fake replica of Drake for the song “Heart on My Sleeve,” which the Recording Academy decided was not eligible for a Grammy award after it went viral earlier this year.

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