You’ve probably seen a TikTok account with videos of Keanu Reeves acting … very strange. The videos have millions of likes and comments. But has Keanu really made the jump from the Matrix and John Wick to weird viral TikToks?
Despite fooling thousands, this account is actually a deepfake and not Keanu Reeves at all. Here’s how we fact-checked it.
Today’s world is filled with technological advances that come with some amazing and scary realities — like the tech used to create what we call deepfakes. Let’s find out what a deepfake is and how to spot one.
Deepfakes are synthetic media, fake content, that are created using artificial intelligence. In deepfake videos, a person’s face is swapped with another to make it look like they said or did something they didn’t.
Deepfakes are created using deep learning algorithms, which get more accurate at recreating someone like Keanu’s likeness with the more images and videos they “see” of him. Celebrity deepfakes often look so accurate because there are lots of pictures of famous people out there to “feed” the algorithm.
The Keanu deepfake account is just for entertainment, like the Tiktok account @deeptomcruise, which has over three-million followers. And more recently, advertisers have started using deepfakes to sell stuff such as a Russian commercial in which “Bruce Willis” helps defuse a bomb.
When it’s not funny
However, technology can be harmful when it’s in the hands of disinformers. Earlier this year a deepfake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy circulated on social media in which he tells his soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender to Russia. This, of course, never happened, but hackers were able to place the deepfake on a Ukrainian news website and TV station.
Still, there are definite advantages to deepfake technology, including using it in:
- entertainment and self expression
- movie production
- and marketing, where customers are able to try on clothing virtually by swapping the model’s face with their face.
Deepfake tech keeps getting better and better, so to fight back when someone uses a deepfake for malicious purposes, such as harassment or to create false news, we as viewers have to get smarter.
So, back to the Keanu Reeves account. There are definitely some major red flags here. The most obvious might be the username “unreal_keanu” and the bio, which says it is “parody.” Still, it has fooled a lot of people. The lesson here: always check the bio. In addition, examining the video closely, you can see that the skin on Keanu’s face looks blotchy, the hair is a bit off and the lighting changes in a weird way. This definitely means there’s something up.
If you suspect that what you’re looking at may be a deepfake, here are some specific questions that might help you figure it out:
- Look at the person’s eyes. Are they blinking or just totally still?
- Is the skin tone blotchy? In deepfakes, skin tone and lighting can appear off.
- Finer details, such as hair, are difficult to render. Does the hair appear not to move or seem too perfect to be real?
- Do the teeth look weird or undefined?
- If the person is wearing glasses or earrings, check the details for imperfections.
- Does the video look “out of character”? If the person is doing something they normally wouldn’t say or do, you should be suspicious and check into it further.
Not Legit. This Keanu Reeves TikTok account, which has fooled thousands of users, is filled with deepfake videos, though the bio indicates it is purely for entertainment and not for any malicious intent.
As technology advances, remember you can’t always believe what you see online.
ATTENTION TEACHERS: This fact-check is featured in a free, one-hour lesson plan about what a deepfake is and how to spot them. The lesson is available through PBS LearningMedia, and includes lesson summary and a handout, among other resources.