YouTube sensation MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, has raised a red flag about the proliferation of fake AI-generated ads. He specifically pointed out a dubious TikTok advertisement featuring a deepfake of himself offering iPhones at an unbelievably low price of $2. Donaldson questioned whether social media platforms are equipped to tackle the surge of these AI-generated deepfakes, emphasizing the gravity of the issue. This plea for vigilance was shared on a platform formerly known as Twitter. When approached for comment, a representative for Donaldson directed NBC News to the post.
Deepfakes represent a form of artificial media wherein a person’s face is digitally replaced with another’s, and the technology behind them has advanced significantly, rendering these fabricated images and videos increasingly difficult to discern.
The controversial ad on TikTok has since been taken down. Although a TikTok spokesperson refrained from providing a comment, they pointed NBC News towards the platform’s advertising policies, which emphasize the necessity of clearly indicating synthetic or manipulated content that depicts realistic scenes.
Though the MrBeast deepfake ad isn’t flawless—displaying occasional lip-sync discrepancies where the mouth movements don’t sync up with the audio—it serves as a stark reminder of the growing sophistication of AI and its potential for deception.
Jimmy Donaldson is just one among several prominent figures who have raised alarms about their likeness being exploited without consent. Recently, actor Tom Hanks disavowed a computer-generated image of himself purportedly endorsing a dental plan, asserting he had no involvement in it. Likewise, Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late actor and comedian Robin Williams, expressed personal unease over AI-generated recreations of her father circulating on the internet.
The issue of AI-generated content also figures prominently in the ongoing strike by the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, in negotiations with Hollywood studios.
In the MrBeast ad, we see an AI-generated version of Donaldson, from the shoulders up, sporting a pink hoodie and a gray baseball cap. In the video, a voice, noticeably different from Donaldson’s, claims that a select group of individuals will have the opportunity to obtain an iPhone 15 Pro for a mere $2. The video also features MrBeast’s logo and a username with a verified checkmark, mimicking the appearance of a genuine account. However, a visit to Donaldson’s verified Instagram account reveals no such posts promoting the giveaway.
Upon conducting a reverse image search, it was discovered that the image used in the purported Instagram post originally served as a thumbnail in a video created by YouTuber ZHC, titled “I Surprised MrBeast With Custom iPhones!” This video has garnered an impressive 37 million views.