Threat to Democracy: Most Convincing DeepFakes of All Time

In a way, deep fake technology was expected. When advanced tools of artificial intelligence started to develop, they were always going to be used for nefarious reasons. But what exactly are deepfakes? It’s a catchall for any visual effect that uses machine learning to analyse massive amounts of data and use it accurately render something (such as a human face) that looks real but isn’t. 

This deep learning technology is already proving revolutionary in the world of film. The Star Wars franchise has used it twice to bring actors Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher back to life in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But as deepfake technology continues to improve, moving from the realm of the ‘uncanny valley’ to absolute realism, the scary implications are becoming all too clear. If anyone’s face can be convincingly replicated in video footage, then how can we be sure of what’s real?

It’s not difficult to imagine how it could be used to pedal fake news, sabotage politicians and even attack individuals on social media. I’m sure I am not the only one who can tell these videos were rendered, something feels off. Nonetheless, deepfake technology is getting scary good. As Hao Li, pioneer of deepfakes said recently at Davos, WEF, the rift between reality and perception is narrowing. We have spoken about it in a recent piece ourselves. Ctrl Shift Face has become the unlikely superstar of the scene racking up tens of millions of views of his videos.

We’ve compiled our own list of the best bizarre deepfakes that have been causing a stir online, including a few from Ctrl Shift Face. Deepfakes have always tread a line between humour but are almost always disturbing, they also show the potential of an evolving technology that could soon have us questioning everything we see. 

Kate Mckinnon / Hillary Clinton 

We start with a mashup of Kate Mckinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 2016. It may be short but we felt obligated to include this deepfake simply because it is one of the most convincing examples out there. Without the side-by-side comparison, it would be almost impossible to detect the hoax. 

Jennifer Lawrence / Steve Buscemi 

In what can only be described as a crime against humanity, Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence’s face has been replaced in this video by none other than Actor Steve Buscemi. It may not be the most credible deepfake, but its one that shows has unnerving this technology can be. 

Jim Carey / Alison Brie 

One of the most frightening deepfakes of all. The familiar expressive face of Jim Carey appears on Alison Brie’s body in this footage from her Late Night talk show appearance.  

Home Stallone 

Whoever came up with this genius idea deserves a lot of credit. It helps of course that it has been executed with such uncanny accuracy that our brains fully accept the recasting of a tiny Rambo in the holiday classic Home Alone.  

Barack Obama / Jordan Peele  

This video was created as a PSA by Peele and his production company to draw attention to the dangers of deepfake technology, and we have to admit it’s chilling when you realise everything you’re seeing is a lie. What makes this footage even more troubling is that it was created using the free tool FakeApp. 

Mark Zukerberg 

This got a huge amount of attention. Mark Zuckerberg is a man whose voice and mannerisms are always vaguely inhuman. Maybe that’s why this particular deepfake works so well. Here we see him give a sinister warning to viewers, saying “the more you express yourself, the more we own you.” The footage was created as part of an artwork series exploring the effects of technology on democracy. 

Bill Hader / Arnold Schwarzenegger

In this clip comedian Bill Hader morphs, mid-interview, into the terminator himself. The dead-on Arnold impression only adds to the spooky resemblance. This video is the most popular deepfake of all time, racking up 12 million views. 

Bill Hader /Tom Cruise 

This for us is was the video that really made us believe that a new tool has arrived. Published back in summer 2019, it went on to accrue 7 million views. I think what makes it so unique is that deepfakes were made for strange people like Scientologist Tom Cruise. The way it progresses in and out of his face is an art form itself.

Nick Cage 

Last but not least, it wouldn’t be the internet without a massive dose of this charismatic icon. So here’s Nicolas Cage as. . . everyone.