Deepfakes are rapidly changing the Internet. It was only last week that a US woman was arrested for using deepfaked images to harass and threaten her daughter's high-school cheerleading rivals, while others are using it to more hilarious ends, such as replacing Marvel characters with Star Wars actors. Regardless of their intent, impressive deepfake apps are making it harder and harder to tell the wood from the trees when browsing the web.
Speaking of which – how confident are you that the social media influencers you follow are actually real?
In a twist that has gone viral this weekend, a popular Japanese Twitter user by the name of @azusagakuyuki has revealed that instead of being a young woman, they are actually a 50-year-old man using deepfakeS to completely change their image.
Zonggu, the man behind the mask, is an avid biker, dedicating his channel to everything about the world of motorcycles. However, when he first started his channel, Zonggu noticed that no matter how good his content, people did not watch. He averaged a few likes per video and could not get the momentum he wished for his platform.
"No-one will read what a normal middle-aged man, taking care of his motorcycle and taking pictures outside, posts on his account," he said, appearing on the Japanese variety TV program Getsuyou Kara Yofukashi (Monday Late Show).
So, Zonggu began experimenting with face-changing apps. Apps such as FaceApp, Reface and more can alter images in a variety of different ways, from making the person years younger, to making them more conventionally attractive. With many using impressive AI, the finished product is usually almost impossible to tell apart from a non-doctored image for the average user.
After seeing that he made a surprisingly attractive young woman, Zonggu apparently became hooked.
"First I just tried, then it happened to turn out to be fairly pretty. I get as many as 1,000 'likes' now, though it was usually below 10 before," he said, reports BBC News. "I got carried away gradually as I tried to make it cuter."
The curtain fell after his Twitter alter ego was invited onto the popular news and talk show after some people had begun to suspect she may not be real. He even hinted at the reveal on his Twitter page before the show aired, urging people to watch it.
Incredibly, that luscious mane of hair is all his.
Revealing his identity to his now almost 25,000 followers, Zonggu went onto the show to let everyone know that the young woman was a ruse. Surprisingly, his fans took it well. He actually has more followers now than before the reveal.
Zonggu now continues to post under the guise of a young woman, and even though many try to ruin his mojo, he continues to post in high spirits.