Tom Hanks says advertiser using AI version of him without permission

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Bay Area native Tom Hanks attends CMA Fest 2023 at on June 9, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

Bay Area native Tom Hanks attends CMA Fest 2023 at on June 9, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Bay Area’s biggest movie star just decried the use of tech’s newest plaything.

Tom Hanks, the Oscar-winning actor and Concord native, posted a warning about deceptive artificial intelligence to his 9.5 million Instagram followers on Sunday. Atop an apparent screenshot of a Hanks deepfake — a synthetic image imitating his likeness — he proclaimed that he had nothing to do with an advertisement using his image.

“BEWARE!!” his post said. “There’s a video out there promoting some dental plan with an AI version of me. I have nothing to do with it.”

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The post garnered more than 120,000 likes and launched a slew of news articles. But it’s hardly pop culture’s first interaction with AI-created media — rapid progress in the technology over the past few years has made it simpler than ever to fake speech, images and video. 

As media and tech companies grapple with how best to deal with the proliferation of fake content — Google is allowing AI for political ads, but requires disclosures — others in the industry are full-speed-ahead on making the tech easier to access and better at replicating real life. Midjourney, a San Francisco-based research lab, saw its tech go viral with an AI-generated image of the pope wearing a Balenciaga jacket in March. Runway, an AI firm that raised $141 million from Google, Nvidia, Salesforce and others in June, is working on “text to video” software: “It’s like filming something new, without filming anything at all.” 

“I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, and that’s it, but performances can go on,” he said. “And outside of the understanding that it’s been done with AI or deepfake, there’ll be nothing to tell you that it’s not me and me alone. And it’s going to have some degree of lifelike quality. That’s certainly an artistic challenge, but it’s also a legal one.”

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AI’s use in entertainment became a flashpoint in the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, with artists worrying that the technology might be used to undermine writing credits or replace background actors. The Writers Guild of America secured a protection against AI in their new contract. 

A Meta spokesperson told SFGATE that the company’s engineering teams are working on technology that could better detect deepfakes and other manipulated media; Facebook and Instagram’s policies don’t allow the misleading use of public figures in advertisements. 

But the firm did recently announce its own slew of AI-enabled celebrity imitations (though they seemingly got the real people’s go-ahead). The Warriors’ Chris Paul is now the face of “Perry,” an “Ex-Golf Pro” chatbot that Meta plans to let Facebook and Instagram users talk to over direct message.

Hear of anything happening at a Bay Area tech company? Contact tech reporter Stephen Council securely at [email protected] or on Signal at 628-204-5452.

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