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MrBeast calls TikTok ad showing an AI version of him a 'scam'

MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, called the rise of AI deepfakes "a serious problem" in response to a fake ad circulating online.
An AI rendering of Mr. Beast.
An AI rendering of MrBeast.@jarvis via Twitter

YouTube star MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is asking if social media platforms are prepared to deal with fake AI ads after a scam advertisement on TikTok featured a deepfake of him offering $2 iPhones.

"Lots of people are getting this deepfake scam ad of me ... are social media platforms ready to handle the rise of AI deepfakes? This is a serious problem," Donaldson posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Donaldson directed NBC News to the post.

Deepfakes are a type of artificial media in which a person's face is replaced with someone else's. The technology has grown more sophisticated, making deepfake images and video harder to spot.

The ad has since been removed from TikTok. A spokesperson for the platform declined to comment, but referred NBC News to its advertising policies, which state that “Synthetic or manipulated media showing realistic scenes must be clearly disclosed or labeled in the video."

Although the MrBeast ad is imperfect — there are lip-sync errors at times, in which the way the mouth moves isn't synchronized with what is being said — it underscores the ever-increasing realism AI offers, and how deceptive it is becoming.

Donaldson joins a handful of other well-known people who have warned that their likeness is being used without their permission. On Sunday, the actor Tom Hanks posted on Instagram that he had "nothing to do with" a computer-generated image of himself "promoting some dental plan." Also this week, Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, called the AI recreations of him circulating the internet “personally disturbing.”

AI also remains a sticking point in the negotiations with the Hollywood studios in the ongoing strike by the actors union, SAG-AFTRA.

The MrBeast ad shows an AI version of Donaldson, shoulders up, in a pink hoodie and gray baseball cap. In the video, a voice, which does not sound like Donaldson, said that a limited number of people will be eligible for the supposed giveaway.

"If you’re watching this video, you’re one of the 10,000 lucky people who will get an iPhone 15 Pro for just $2," the voice says in the video. "I’m MrBeast and I’m doing the world’s largest iPhone 15 giveaway. Click the link below to claim yours now."

The video also displayed Donaldson's logo and a username with a verified checkmark in the lower lefthand corner, where a real verified username would typically appear. The linked page showed an image that is made to look like it's from Donaldson's Instagram account advertising the giveaway. However, no such posts appear on Donaldson's verified Instagram account page.

A reverse image search on Google shows the image that appeared in the alleged Instagram post was originally used as a thumbnail in a video by YouTuber ZHC. The video, titled "I Surprised MrBeast With Custom iPhones!" has more than 37 million views.

At the top of the page, a counter supposedly shows the dwindling number of iPhones still available.

The page asked users to verify they are over 18 and displays several "satisfied customers" with the iPhones they are purported to have won.