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Tom Cruise deepfake videos on TikTok leave people baffled

No, that's not the real Tom Cruise showing off his golf swing and doing magic tricks.
/ Source: TODAY

Judging by a series of videos circulating on TikTok, Tom Cruise has been working on his golf swing and practicing magic tricks.

Except that isn't the "Mission Impossible" star, it's a deepfake of him that has been fooling people because it looks so realistic.

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The mannerisms, the facial expressions, the famous gleaming smile — it all looks like the Hollywood icon. The creepy, oftentimes convincing videos work by superimposing one person's face over another's.

"This is not Tom Cruise. This is a deep fake. This probably isn't great news for Cameo," Twitch senior vice president Damian Burns tweeted, referencing the app in which celebrities deliver personalized video messages for a fee.

Another one of the deepfakes shows Cruise doing a magic trick.

A third video in the series shows the fake Cruise telling a joke.

The unnervingly realistic videos that were posted last week on the TikTok account @deeptomcruise were created by Belgian visual effects specialist Chris Ume, according to Fortune. He also shared them on his LinkedIn page, but the TikTok videos are no longer public on the account.

Ume also posted a YouTube video last year that shows the face of a Cruise impersonator merging with Cruise's real face, illustrating how a deepfake can be made.

Deepfakes have become more prolific in recent years, with ones of Jennifer Lawrence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Zuckerberg and former President George W. Bush drawing notice.

NBC News correspondent Tom Costello demonstrated on TODAY in 2019 how simple the videos can be to make, enlisting the help of a cybersecurity expert to produce of deepfake of Costello talking with another person's face seamlessly replacing his face thanks to a free program found on the internet.

Concern over deepfakes being used to spread foreign propaganda and disinformation around the 2020 election was acute enough in 2019 that Congress held a hearing about it.

"The potential for harm is tremendous," Rep. Adam Schiff told Morgan Radford on TODAY in 2019. "And what psychologists will tell you is if you see a video of someone saying something distasteful or racist or criminal or whatever, even if you're later persuaded that wasn't them, you can never completely lose the lingering negative impression of that person."