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Man behind viral Tom Cruise deepfake videos calls the technology ‘morally neutral’

Actor Miles Fisher, who has impersonated Tom Cruise in a series of uncanny deepfakes, says the positive of the technology outweighs the negative as it continues to develop.
/ Source: TODAY

The man behind the viral Tom Cruise deepfake videos on TikTok believes the positive outweighs the negative when it comes to the technology that allows him to so convincingly impersonate the Hollywood superstar.

Miles Fisher, the Cruise lookalike who has fooled millions with his TikTok videos, spoke about the possibilities and downsides of the deepfake technology in an exclusive interview with NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff.

"As I find myself the unofficial face of this deep fake movement, it’s important to learn and I’m fascinated by this," Fisher told Soboroff on TODAY Tuesday. "This is the bleeding edge of technology."

In a series of digitally manipulated videos, images and audio released earlier this year, it appeared like Cruise himself was showing off magic tricks, working on his golf swing and playing guitar. Except that wasn't the "Mission: Impossible" star at all. It was Fisher.

"I think we’ve created the first deepfake that’s so realistic, that a large majority of people have seen," he said.

Fisher, who bears a strong resemblance to Cruise in real life, said the similarities to the star often hampered him as he tried to make his own way as an actor.

Last year he decided to lean into the connection to Cruise, contacting Belgian visual effects specialist Chris Umé to create the viral Cruise videos for fun. The technology has also improved to the point that what once would've taken Umé weeks to make can now be created much quicker.

"About five days, maximum six days, I could turn around something like this," Umé told Soboroff on TODAY.

Cruise, who did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News, has not asked the duo to stop. Fisher and Umé also have not monetized the TikTok account @deeptomcruise, which has more than 3 million followers.

However, Fisher and Umé are now working together in a company started by Umé called Metaphysic that uses deepfake tech.

"How can we use this technology by creating kind of identity rights?" Fisher said. "Let’s say Tom Cruise gave us the consent for this likeness, where we could move beyond just small parody clips. Everybody gets paid for that intellectual property."

Deepfakes in recent years have also created impersonations of Jennifer Lawrence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Zuckerberg and former President George W. Bush that drew notice.

The potential threat of the technology has been debated in Congress, which raised the specter of its use for political propaganda, fake revenge porn and other nefarious purposes.

“Deepfakes can cause real, concrete harm. Whether that’s a deepfake sex video, or a fake porn video targeting political enemies, or a well-timed deepfake, maybe used to cause harm to an IPO,” University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron told NBC News ahead of congressional hearings about it in 2019. “And in unrest, if you time it just right, you can incite violence.”

The FBI told NBC News in a statement that it is tracking the technology closely and "will continue to investigate any violations of federal law and actors that may use them for nefarious acts."

Some companies are working on safeguards that will allow people to identify a deepfake like adding data to video and pictures so it will be clear when something has been digitally altered.

Fisher and Umé say they will only take on projects with positive applications.

"The thesis of this company that Chris started begins with ethics," Fisher said.  

"I think the technology is morally neutral," he continued. "As it develops, the positive output will so far outweigh the negative, nefarious uses."