7 Celeb Deepfake Victims and Tips to Spot a Deepfake

7 Celeb Deepfake

From Taylor Swift to Scarlett Johanson, Alia Bhatt and more—here is a round-up of some recent celebrity deepfake victims.

Here’s a new drinking game idea: take a shot every time you spot a deepfake. Odds are, you would end up completely sober, completely drunk or completely confused. Deepfakes, artificial intelligence-enabled tech, can alter images so convincingly that distinguishing between reality and fabrication becomes a Herculean task. In recent years, deepfakes have revealed their dual nature, offering both commendable and concerning applications. 

On one hand, deepfake technology enables virtual reunions with lost loved ones. Yet on the other, it’s a potent tool for spreading disinformation. It’s been employed to mess with images of public figures, like creating a fake video of Ukraine’s president surrendering. Moreover, deepfakes can conjure entirely non-existent characters, going beyond regular photo editing tools and Hollywood effects. This blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not. With the rise of AI, anyone can easily manipulate audiences with deepfakes, often for little to no money. This raises ethical concerns, as it can trick people into buying products or falling for scams endorsed by fake versions of their favorite celebrities.

Here, we look at some recent victims of deepfake technology:

1. Taylor Swift and the spread of fake sexually explicit content

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the pop star Taylor Swift became a target of deepfakes, with sexually explicit images falsely attributed to her spreading on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter). A particular post attracted over 45 million views, 24,000 reposts and hundreds of thousands of likes and bookmarks before the responsible account was suspended. 

Responding to this alarming situation, a coalition of US senators introduced a bill criminalizing the dissemination of AI-generated explicit content without consent.

Under this proposed legislation, individuals depicted in digitally manipulated nude or sexually explicit content, referred to as “digital forgeries”, would have the right to pursue a civil penalty. This penalty could be enforced against those who intentionally created or possessed the forged content with the intent to distribute it, as well as those who knowingly received such material without the subject’s consent.

2. Sachin Tendulkar and the abuse of his sporting legacy

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar denounced a deepfake video falsely depicting him endorsing an online gaming app. In the manipulated video, he is portrayed praising the app as a quick means to make money and mentioning his daughter, also a well-known face online, is a frequent player of the game. 

Tendulkar expressed his concern on X, stating that these videos are “fake” and that it was disconcerting to witness the extensive misuse of technology. The country’s Union Minister also responded by vowing to set stronger rules to counter the spread of deepfakes. 

3. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Garba performance

Image from Wikimedia Commons

A deepfake video portraying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi performing the Garba—a traditional Indian dance—is circulating on the internet and has sparked significant conversation. Addressing journalists during an event, he used this instance to shed light on the broader implications of technology and social media advancements. While recognizing the positive aspects of these tools, Modi emphasized the need for media collaboration in educating and warning people about the potential risks of AI, particularly concerning deepfake technology, and the crises it could cause if misused.

4. MrBeast’s US$2 iPhone giveaway scam

Image from Wikimedia Commons

A recent TikTok scam featured a deepfake video falsely advertising YouTube star MrBeast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, offering iPhones for just US$2. The deepfake ad features an AI-rendered MrBeast in a pink hoodie, enticing viewers with the promise of a limited iPhone giveaway. The voice in the video says, “I’m MrBeast and I’m doing the world’s largest iPhone 15 giveaway. Click the link below to claim yours now.”

Despite noticeable imperfections like lip-sync errors, it has brought attention to the potential challenges social media platforms face in dealing with fake AI-generated content. Through a post on X, MrBeast questions the preparedness of social media platforms to combat the increasing sophistication of deepfake technology and its potential for deception. 

5. Donald Trump goes to jail in a deepfake world

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Eliot Higgins, the founder of investigative journalism site Bellingcat, recently experimented with the AI art generator Midjourney to create a series of images depicting the fictional arrest of Donald Trump. Using prompts like “Donald Trump falling down while being arrested”, he shared the resulting images on X. Surprisingly (and unfortunately for Higgins), these fictional depictions caught the eye of netizens, garnering five million views in just two days. Higgins was fined soon after and locked out of Midjourney. 

6. Alia Bhatt’s body superimposed on a model

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Yet another deepfake victim: A deepfake video emerged featuring the face of popular Indian actress Alia Bhatt superimposed onto the body of a woman dressed provocatively, engaging in various gestures towards the camera. Several other Indian actresses, including Rashmika Mandanna, Katrina Kaif and Kajol, have faced similar situations, falling prey to the dark side of deepfake technology. 

These incidents are part of a troubling trend where Indian actresses becoming unwitting subjects of morphed videos, amplifying concerns over deepfake pornography and the exploitation of women in the digital age. In 2019, the AI-focused company Deeptrace revealed a shocking statistic: 96% of deepfake videos were pornographic, with the vast majority produced without the consent of the individuals depicted.

7. Scarlett Johanson’s fake promotional ad

Image from Wikimedia Commons

An AI-crafted version of the Marvel actress Scarlett Johanson surfaced in an online promotion for Lisa AI, a platform enabling users to generate avatars and images via text prompts. Johansson’s legal representative has voiced strong objections, asserting that the company used her image without permission, referencing her footage in a previous campaign with the fundraising firm Omaze.

Initially seen on X, the ad was later removed, yet it raised significant copyright and consent issues. As per Variety’s report, the promotional material featured a disclaimer beneath Johansson’s image, clarifying, “Images produced by Lisa AI. It is unrelated to this individual.”

How do you identify deepfakes?

Pull out the metaphorical magnifying glass, for we are going on a deepfake hunt:

1. Examine the facial texture

Is the face too smooth or wrinkly? Are there some awkward proportions? If so, then it’s probably a deepfake. 

2. Pay attention to the lip sync

We don’t know about singers, but one thing that is never going to beat the lip sync allegations (hopefully) is deepfakes. Discrepancies between spoken words and lip movements are strong indicators of artificial tampering.

3. Keep an eye on the eyes

Deepfakes don’t blink as we do, and their eyebrows might not move like ours either. Pay attention to the shadows and movement of the face. 

In the end, it’s like what the beloved character Dwight from the hit sitcom The Office said, “Identity theft is not a joke.” All things considered, with stronger laws, it won’t be treated as such.

Also read:

Header Image from Instagram and Wikimedia Commons (L to R: Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift, Alia Bhatt, Jimmy Donaldson)

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