A new Showtime series delivers the inside scoop on the tattling royalty of New York gossip pages

Two women are seated together holding small dogs.
Ivana Trump and Cindy Adams in the front row during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2004.

  • A new 4-part Showtime documentary series dishes on the queens and kings of New York gossip columns: Cindy Adams, Liz Smith, George Rush, and Richard Johnson.
  • “Gossip” premieres on Showtime beginning August 22 at 8 p.m. EST.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mere gossip is anything but.

A Showtime documentary series debuting on Sunday, appropriately entitled “Gossip,” dishes on the power and punch of gossip and the people behind the items and columns – the tattling royalty of New York newspapers like Cindy Adams, Liz Smith, George Rush, and Richard Johnson.

The four-part series kicks off with media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s 1976 purchase of the New York Post, planting his first foothold in U.S. journalism by parlaying titillating gossip and scandals to drive up circulation at the conservative tabloid and leaving few celebrities, politicians and bigwigs untouched.

It follows the path of the gossip business through its heady days of sensational newspaper scoops and scandals over the decades before the internet and social media made columns and their authors largely obsolete and indelibly rearranged the landscape.

Along the way, gossip became a catalyst, a weapon even, that could foster fame, ruin reputations and make or break careers. Gossip pages could be deployed to spin stories, win attention merited or not, plant rumors that did not quite qualify as news and boost up-and-comers into boldface names.

“Gossip is frequently disparaged, but the trashy stuff connects to the bigger picture, and we ignore it at our peril,” says Ben Widdicombe, a former columnist for the Post’s Page Six gossip column that Murdoch created, on the series.

A man is flanked by two women at a party.
Men’s Health Magazine hosted a 50th Birthday Bash for “Page 6” Editor Richard Johnson (center), flanked by Heidi Klum, Richard Johnson and Petra Nemcova.

Leading the chattering charge is Adams, the sassy, glamorous and undisputed queen of tabloid buzz. At 91, Adams still turns out a column chock full of tidbits, more than 50 years after she first landed on the Post’s front page with an exclusive interview with the newly ousted Shah of Iran.

Adams at the time had enviable access to the world of the international rich and powerful, thanks to her husband Joey Adams, a comedian and ubiquitous toastmaster who traveled in swanky circles.

Undergoing cancer treatment at a New York City hospital swarming with inquisitive reporters and angry protesters seeking his return to Iran to face justice before the Ayatollah Khomeini, the shah was willing to talk to his old friend Cindy Adams, and her writeup of their conversation got her an unpaid but career-making story and, eventually, a full time job.

Five hundred front pages later, by Adams’s count, she has unearthed gossip on the rich and famous from Donald Trump to Woody Allen, Princess Diana and Leona Helmsley to Lindsay Lohan. All are delivered in Adams’ distinctively brash, unapologetic style.

Three women sit side by side.
Cindy Adams, Barbara Walters and Liz Smith attend a book party at New York’s Four Seasons Restaurant in 2007.

“I’m New York,” Adams says on the Showtime documentary. “You don’t like it? Go screw yourself. Buy another paper. They’re not going to read me in Roanoke, West Virginia.”

A voice off-camera can be heard suggesting that Roanoke is, in fact, in Virginia.

“What’s the difference,” Adams replies.

“Gossip” director Jenny Carchman calls Adams “the last one standing.”

“There’s no one doing what she does. Everybody’s on their phones, everybody’s on the internet, celebrities don’t need columnists at all,” said Carchman in an interview with “Business Insider.”

In the course of the documentary series, “what you come to see is how 24-hour news and the internet and Monica Lewinsky all converged at the same time, and it changes the way news operates,” she said.

“It collapses news and entertainment into one thing, and it also diminishes the need not just for the actual newspaper … but also it diminishes a whole population of people which are called gossip columnists.”

Plans for the series were made pre-COVID by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries, and the onset of the pandemic meant the creators were forced to rely on archives, interviews and historical video footage rather than capturing the gossip process live.

“They couldn’t get me at a gala. They couldn’t get me at a red carpet,” Adams fretted to Insider. “They couldn’t get me backstage. They couldn’t get me interviewing a celebrity. They couldn’t get me at a party.”

A woman wears fur boots as she stands beside a man, wearing a suit.
Cindy Adams and Alec Baldwin in 2014.

The series entertains with infighting among gossip’s elite players like legend Liz Smith, George Rush and Joanna Malloy who penned a 15-year column at New York’s Daily News and longtime Page Six editor Richard Johnson. It delves into the masterful manipulations by Trump and Harvey Weinstein to the current reality of celebrities who can tell their own stories on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Through it all is the extraordinary power of Murdoch, whose beloved gossip-fueled New York Post in America helped seat him at the helm of an unrivalled global media empire.

“Who’s the great figure in American journalism in the last 25 years? It’s not Ben Bradlee. It’s not Woodward and Bernstein. It’s not Kay Graham. It’s Murdoch. He’s changed the whole agenda of what is news,” Carl Bernstein says in a clip of an interview with Charlie Rose used in the series.

Carchman made “Gossip” after directing and producing “The Fourth Estate,” about The New York Times in the Trump era, for Showtime, gaining respect for the value of gossip alongside more lofty journalism along the way.

“I went from national security reporters and White House reporters at ‘The New York Times’ to the gossip page, which is really where people get their sea legs reporting,” she said.

“The currency of gossip can be used in such a way that may possibly be more powerful than we think,” she said. “Every story starts with gossip, every story.”

“Gossip” premieres on Showtime beginning August 22 at 8 p.m. EST.

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Cameo lets you hire celebrities to create personalized videos for any occasion – here’s a full breakdown of how the service works

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Brian Baumgartner, known for his role as Kevin in “The Office,” is one of the most requested celebrities available for hire on Cameo.
Brian Baumgartner, known for his role as Kevin in “The Office,” is one of the most requested celebrities available for hire on Cameo.

  • Cameo is an online service that lets people hire celebrities to create personalized videos.
  • Thousands of actors, artists, and influencers have set their own rates for a Cameo video appearance.
  • Cameo video prices range from as low as $1 to as high as $1,500, depending on the celebrity.

Personalized Message (small)

Cameo lets everyday people hire actors, athletes, artists, and celebrities of all types to create personalized video messages for any occasion. For example, you can hire celebrity chef Alton Brown to give a personal pep talk to a friend or hire their favorite actor to leave them a video message as a specific movie character.

Viral Cameo videos have shown just how versatile the service can be; Carole Baskin, the big-cat rights activist who rose to fame with the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” has been seen singing 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” as a Cameo request.

Baskin was among Cameo’s most requested stars last year, alongside Snoop Dogg, Brett Favre, and “The Office” actor Brian Baumgartner. Baumgartner earned more than $1 million from Cameo in 2020, according to Cameo CEO Steven Galanis.

Thousands of celebrities and social media influencers are available for Cameo videos – they set their own price and still have final say over whether or not they complete user requests. Prices start as low as $1 to $5 for less recognizable online talent while stars with more name recognition, like Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, Grammy award-winning artist Chaka Khan, and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary, charge anywhere from $650 to $1,500 for a Cameo video.

For talent big and small, Cameo gives people a way to make money directly from their celebrity, and the service puts fans directly in touch with the artists they appreciate.

How does Cameo work?

Cameo 2021
A view of the Cameo Marketplace.

To request a Cameo, you’ll need to make an account and visit the Cameo Marketplace through the Cameo website or app, where you can sort the thousands of available celebrities based on category. Once you’ve chosen your celebrity, you’ll fill out a request form where you describe what you want your Cameo talent to do, in a maximum of 250 characters. Cameo accepts direct payment via credit card – US residents using iOS can also purchase “Cameo credits” to store in your account and exchange for videos later.

Once the request is completed, the Cameo talent has seven days to accept or deny the project. If accepted, the celebrity will record the video and Cameo will send a link to the video to the phone numbers and email addresses listed with the request. Users can download the video to keep forever and share however they like.

If the hired talent doesn’t fulfill the request within a week, all charges will be restored to the buyer’s wallet.

Some Cameo celebrities also offer live Zoom calls, though you can expect them to be more expensive than a standard Cameo video with the same talent. The Cameo app gives you the ability to chat with talent via direct messages as well. Chatting is a cheaper option if you just want to ask a celebrity a question or send a quick shout-out.

Business Cameos

Cameo offers a separate service for businesses looking to promote a product, or have a celebrity appear for a virtual event. Business Cameos have an average price of $1,000 but come with a different license for promotional and commercial use.

It’s important to note that Business Cameos are only licensed for use for 30 days after they are created. Cameo says businesses must contact the company directly to extend the license beyond thirty days. Cameo Live sessions are also available for businesses and virtual events, with a starting price of $10,000.

Companies looking to book services on Cameo can browse the marketplace on their own, or they can choose to partner with Cameo for access to their VIP service. This VIP service includes a dedicated customer success representative, prioritization for your request, and a waiving of the 5% service fee. For more information about the VIP service, companies must book a call with Cameo.

Any products being sent to a celebrity for promotional purposes must be cleared through the Cameo request process in advance, and the talent is allowed to provide their honest opinion of any product they’re asked to endorse.

Cameo also says that promotional videos cannot be edited, to avoid celebrity videos being used out of context. VIP service members can speak with their customer representative for a potential do-over if the celebrity says the wrong name or doesn’t meet expectations. Companies who choose to book through self-service have fewer options for rectification and can reach out via email to the customer service team. Unfortunately, there are no refunds or reshoots for Promotional Cameo videos if you’re unsatisfied with the final result, so be careful before you commit.

Personalized Message (small)

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The racist trolling of an iCarly star follows a pattern of online abuse against Black women in television, experts say

Actress Laci Mosley
Laci Mosley is set to star in the upcoming “iCarly” reboot.

  • Laci Mosley, a Black woman, was cast as the character of Harper in the upcoming “iCarly” reboot.
  • She said she received a barrage of hateful, racist comments on social media.
  • Experts explain how widespread this behavior is, and why it remains pervasive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A writer on the upcoming “iCarly” reboot tweeted that one of the stars of the show was being targeted with hateful, racist comments.

“Hey #iCarly tweeps!” Franchesca Ramsey, who has over 230,000 followers, wrote on May 17. “I’m seeing a looooot of racist abuse being hurled at one of our stars & I’d love if you’d join me in calling it out when/if you see it.” The tweet was widely shared and received over 12,000 likes.

“iCarly,” which is set to premier on Paramount+ on June 17, is a remake of the Nickelodeon show that ran from 2007 to 2012. It stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly Shay, who runs a web show with her friends. In the new series, Carly and her friends will be “navigating work, love, and family in their 20s,” according to EW.

A post shared by Miranda Cosgrove (@mirandacosgrove)

Following the tweet and subsequent comments from Laci Mosley, a Black actor set to join the cast of “iCarly”, Insider spoke to experts with experience in the way people of color are treated in the entertainment industry. They highlighted the pervasive racism from online trolls, many of whom struggle to accept diversity being newly introduced into television shows, and the importance of speaking out in order to effect change.

Laci Mosley spoke out about racist abuse she’d received from fans who were angry she was joining the ‘iCarly’ cast

It was announced in March that Mosley, an actor best known for her role in the sitcom “Florida Girls” and her podcast “Scam Goddess,” would be joining the cast in the role of a new character called Harper, who will live with Carly.

While many of the original cast, including Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor, and Nathan Kress, are returning to the reboot, fans noticed that the character Sam Puckett, played by Jennette McCurdy, was missing.

This appears to have led to backlash towards Mosley on social media, with fans angry that a beloved white character is not present, but a Black woman is.

“Laci’s character Harper isn’t replacing Sam,” Ramsey tweeted, following up with statements from her fellow writers condemning the racism. “No one could replace Jeanette McCurdy or her incredible talent! But it’s both racist as hell & completely unfair to decide that Laci hasn’t earned her role especially since the show isn’t even out yet!!”

Mosley tweeted that she had received racist TikTok videos and social media comments since the announcement, and it had broken her heart. She said “being a Black woman is exhausting” and “we all deserve better.”

She also posted a statement to her Instagram, saying that she loves being Black, but hates “how Black people are treated on this planet.

“I was shocked when a celebration of all the hard work we’ve put into making this reboot was overshadowed by the most racism I’ve ever experienced in my life over the course of 72 hours,” she said. “I felt silly being so upset because I’ve been in this little brown body my entire life and racism isn’t new but it still hurts.”

A post shared by Laci Mosley (@divalaci)

‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’

The issue of racist backlash against women of color in entertainment is widespread. Amina Smith, a former Stadium Sports Network host who is now the on-air talent for NBC Boston Sports, told Insider she has experienced racism in many different ways. She’s had people calling her the N-word slur in messages, and has been told she’s not qualified for her job because she is simply filling a “Black quota.”

“It sickens me to see that people who have never met you have so much hate for you just based on what you look like,” she said, adding that anonymity makes it easier for people to be comfortable spewing hate.

“I think people often detach celebrities from being actual humans that can hear, see, and feel the hate that comes their way,” she said. “All of this just shows that racism isn’t something of the past and unfortunately, very much a reality in this country.”

Cheryl L. Bedford is the founder of social action organization Women of Color Unite, which focuses on fair treatment and fair pay for women of color in the entertainment and media industries. She told Insider that racism directed at the success of Black people is a blatant example of “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

Seeing more Black talent taking starring roles can cause an angry reaction from some white people because they are so used to being centered in every conversation, she said.

“Content has always been seen through the white male cis-gender heterosexual gaze,” she said. “So as we get more and more diverse, you will have that backlash.”

iCarly reboot
Many of the original cast are returning to “iCarly.”

It’s particularly apparent when shows are rebooted because people tend to have a nostalgic attachment to them, she said, and don’t like to see them changed – especially when the show wasn’t initially diverse.

“They have these feelings from childhood that come up,” Bedford said. “What they fail to realize is that people like me, we never saw ourselves in that. You might be attached to it. We’re not. And if you want our dollars, you got to put us in it.”

That fallout is a spectrum, from casually racist comments to rampant, hateful abuse. And it will continue to increase until diversity is the norm, Bedford said.

“The work that I do is exhausting. The emotional energy that comes from calling things out over and over and over again is exhausting,” she said. “But it’s the work that needs to be done because we have to get to the point where it is normalized.”

The hateful campaign highlights a gendered form of anti-Black racism

Tyler Parry, an assistant professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Nevada, told Insider that directing racist hate towards people of color cast in television shows is common.

“This has been a pretty consistent thought process amongst racists on the internet,” he said. “Where even before the show begins, it is doomed for failure in their minds, simply because the network had the audacity to recast the part for better representation.”

He thinks campaigns of targeted harassment can be intended to psychologically damage the actor, but also to put pressure on the studio to recast them with another white person.

“We also have to consider that this is a gendered form of anti-Black racism, and this is just the most recent manifestation of that,” he said. “And I think that’s important because it does seem that Black women are the ones most targeted by these campaigns.”

For example, the same kind of vitriol was seen when a Black actor was chosen as the character of Rue in “The Hunger Games,” or when Javicia Leslie was cast as Batwoman.

Support from allies is vital to send a message that racism should not be tolerated

Philip McKenzie, the chief strategy officer at MediaVillage and the executive director of AdvancingDiversity.org, told Insider that when racist abuse happens, it is important for casts, productions, and studios to have a united front against the hate “to not only support the talent that is under attack but to send a clear message to fans this behavior is not tolerated or welcome.”

The Instagram account for “iCarly” on Paramount+ shared a statement following the tweets, saying the racist attacks were “not acceptable.” It was shared by Mosley’s costars Cosgrove and Trainor, who added that he never wanted to hear the phrase “iCarly fans are racist” ever again.

“Our company is proud to uphold the values of inclusivity and collaboration, where we work to embrace new and diverse voices, act with care, and work together,” it reads. “The upcoming Paramount+ iCarly series is one of many examples of this commitment, and we support our entire cast and crew and stand against all instances of hate and racism.”

Some experts think studios could do more. Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the civil rights organization National Urban League who has fought against racism in Hollywood, told Insider that in order for people of color to see themselves in the stories that shape our worldview, diversity and inclusion needs to be pursued “at every level and in every facet of the entertainment industry.”

“It is just as important for white America to see people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures represented realistically in the media they consume,” he said.

Bedford said this means hiring more people of color as writers, producers, and directors because “the marginalized can write for the ones in power.”

“The opposite is not true,” she said.

Insider has reached out to Paramount representatives for comment.

A post shared by Jerry Trainor (@jerrytrainor)

Parry said that with the rise of social media, even a small collective of online trolls “can have a very big voice.”

“It does amplify people who have prejudices that they want to let loose and unleash on specific groups,” he said.

The support shown for Mosley has also been huge though, according to her recent tweets.

“I just want to thank you all for being so kind and uplifting me over the past few days,” she said on May 19. “I can’t believe how a scenario that started out so negative has become SO overwhelming positive.”

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

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Bill Maher slams celebrities Jenner, McConaughey as having ‘malignant narcissism’ for seeking jump into politics

Screen Shot 2017 07 13 at 2.09.06 PM
The HBO host Bill Maher.

  • HBO host Bill Maher on Friday blasted celebrities who seek to run for political office.
  • Maher said that Trump’s four years in office should be a “cautionary tale” for celebrities.
  • Maher said that celebrities are misguided in thinking that they can overcome partisanship.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

HBO host Bill Maher on Friday blasted celebrities who seek to run for political office, calling out actors and reality stars including Caitlyn Jenner, Matthew McConaughey, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for having “malignant narcissism.”

On “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher was deeply critical of high-profile individuals assuming they have the qualifications to manage a state or the entire country.

“Someone must explain why celebrities running for office is a recurring nightmare we cannot seem to shake,” he said. “The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner, Matthew McConaughey, Randy Quaid. They all have suggested lately that when it comes to running the country, they have what it takes. And they do: malignant narcissism.”

Johnson has long flirted with a potential presidential bid, while Jenner has already announced that she would challenge Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California as a Republican. Last month, Quaid said he was also “seriously considering” a run for California governor, while McConaughey has talked up running for Texas governor.

“Matthew McConaughey is I’m sure a lovely person, but when he says he says he’s considering a run for governor in Texas, I must say that’s not alright, alright, alright,” Maher said, referring to the actor’s memorable line from the 1993 film “Dazed and Confused.”

Maher contended that former President Donald Trump’s single term in office should be a “cautionary tale” for celebrities who don’t have the sufficient experience for positions like governor or president.

“The last four years was a warning, not an inspiration,” he said. “You were supposed to see that and think, ‘I guess high-level government jobs should go to people who have trained for it and know what they’re doing.'”

Maher also gave a blunt assessment of Jenner’s candidacy.

“I’m sure Caitlyn Jenner is a nice person, but as California governor, she would be in charge of the nation’s fifth-largest economy based on her qualifications of being a background character in a reality show not about her,” he said, alluding to the long-running reality television series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

He continued: “Governing is a difficult, nuanced job with people’s lives and livelihoods at stake. Perhaps you’ve noticed that things in America have been a little different these last five months. That’s because there are people back in charge who spent their formative years not on a sound stage, but studying the stuff you need to know to be effective on the world stage.”

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump’s rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government and its institutions

Delivering his final opinions on the issue, Maher said that celebrities are misguided in thinking that they can overcome the partisan divide prevalent in the US.

“Let me put it bluntly to you and all of these would-be showbiz candidates,” he said. “You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, and, doggone it, it completely doesn’t matter that people like you. They like you now because you’re an entertainer and thus largely uncontroversial. Governing is the opposite. If you think you can unite the country, you’re delusional.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Inside America’s first private terminal for millionaires

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is home to America’s first private terminal.
  • The Private Suite is popular among the world’s celebrities and millionaires.
  • The terminal has 12 individual suites, its own TSA check, and a fleet of BMWs that drive guests to their planes.
  • Non-members can utilize the suite for $4,000 per international flight.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Airports suck. Camping out in customs lines, sprinting a mile to your gate, it’s the worst and the furthest thing from luxury. But imagine you had some extra cash saved up, would you spend it to skip all of that airport madness? Well, that’s what the minds behind America’s very first private terminal are betting on. In 2017, The Private Suite opened up at LAX. And for $4,000 per international flight, guests get access to a luxurious, super secure, private terminal just two miles from the normal one.

Amina: At LAX, it takes about 2,200 steps to get from the check-in counter to your plane door. For us, it takes 70 steps.

Narrator: Each year, thousands of the world’s millionaires and celebrities relax between flights in the terminal’s 12 individual suites. The Private Suite coordinates with 70 airlines, has an onsite TSA check, and owns a fleet of BMWs that drives travelers right to their planes. So what’s it like inside the place claiming to make travel not only easy but enjoyable? We had our LA team go and check out The Private Suite themselves.

Caroline: Hello, so I just arrived to The Private Suite at LAX. And there is a lot of security, like when you pull in, they asked for my ID, and this guy in like a bulletproof vest. So it is very highly secured. I am going to pretend I am very affluent for an hour.

Narrator: When you first pull up, you enter through these ominous gates with armed guards and a sign warning no filming is allowed. Right away, you’re assigned a logistics team of eight people. They take care of everything during your stay from valeting and detailing your car to checking in your baggage. And don’t worry about missing your flight, the team’s watching the clock. When you enter the terminal, there’s no check-in. You’re escorted straight to your private suite.

Caroline: Wow. Oh, my gosh, it’s like your private hotel room.

Narrator: Each suite has a fully stocked kitchenette loaded with snacks. You can also order food off a curated menu ahead of time, so it’s ready when you arrive.

Caroline: Oh, my gosh, they have food. It’s not like the fast food options you get at the airport. You get, like, healthier options. This is exactly what I ordered. Narrator: There’s a minibar with spirits, Champagne, and white wine. You can get red wine upon request. There’s even a candy wall.

Caroline: This is perfect for kids, but it’s also, like, perfect for me as an adult. We got M&M’s, chocolate-covered, I’m assuming they’re raisins, jelly beans, Hershey’s, and Skittles.

Narrator: All of the suites come with an en suite bathroom stocked with toiletries. There’s no shower in these, but the members can utilize the spa shower just down the hall. They can also book complimentary massages, manicures, or haircuts right in their suites. And in case you forgot something, each suite has pillows, power adapters, and travel accessories on hand. One of the suites even has a backyard complete with a putting green and cornhole. When your flight time approaches, your team will let you know it’s time to pack up. You’ll breeze through TSA in under a few minutes, and you don’t have to worry about bags, The Private Suite’s taken care of checking those in. Once cleared, you’ll hop on a 7 Series BMW that drives you the seven minutes across the tarmac to your flight.

Amina: When you’re driving, being driven through the airfield, you know, between the airplanes to your plane, that’s a really special kind of experience that frankly only we can deliver, and that’s something that, a memory that people take away with them all the time.

Narrator: So how does The Private Suite manage to cut down on travel times and still maintain privacy? With lots and lots of planning.

Amina: Most people don’t realize the operational complexity that happens in the background to even getting one member through here. For example, we have a control room. It looks like, you know, the NASA space center or something. We know exactly what container in the airplane your luggage is in before your airplane actually lands so that we can intercept your luggage and take it out for you before it hits the conveyor belt. That’s the kind of meticulous coordination that happens in the background every step of the way.

Narrator: Members of The Private Suite pay a yearly fee of $4,500 and an extra $3,000 per international flight, but you can utilize the suite even if you’re not a member. You won’t have a yearly fee, but you’ll pay between $500 and $1,000 more per flight.

Caroline: I can really see the benefits of being a member if you’re traveling a lot because I think that would decrease the price a little bit. But also, if you wanna splurge on a really fun trip that you’re taking with your friends, and you’re just like, “You know what, we saved up. We need to do this, like, the best way possible. Why don’t we just come in, come into the lounge, and just get on the flight with ease.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.

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The Tom Cruise deepfakes were hard to create. But less sophisticated ‘shallowfakes’ are already wreaking havoc

tom cruise BURBANK, CA - JANUARY 30: Tom Cruise onstage during the 10th Annual Lumiere Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on January 30, 2019 in Burbank. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Advanced Imaging Society)
  • The convincing Tom Cruise deepfakes that went viral last month took lots of skill to create.
  • But less sophisticated “shallowfakes” and other synthetic media are already creating havoc.
  • DARPA’s AI experts mapped out how hard it would be to create these emerging types of fake media.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The coiffed hair, the squint, the jaw clench, and even the signature cackle – it all looks and sounds virtually indistinguishable from the real Tom Cruise.

But the uncanny lookalikes that went viral on TikTok last month under the handle @deeptomcruise were deepfakes, a collaboration between Belgian visual-effects artist Chris Ume and Tom Cruise impersonator Miles Fisher.

The content was entertaining and harmless, with the fake Cruise performing magic tricks, practicing his golf swing, and indulging in a Bubble Pop. Still, the videos – which have racked up an average of 5.6 million views each – reignited people’s fears about the dangers of the most cutting-edge type of fake media.

“Deepfakes seem to tap into a really visceral part of people’s minds,” Henry Ajder, a UK-based deepfakes expert, told Insider.

“When you watch that Tom Cruise deepfake, you don’t need an analogy because you’re seeing it with your own two eyes and you’re being kind of fooled even though you know it’s not real,” he said. “Being fooled is a very intimate experience. And if someone is fooled by a deepfake, it makes them sit up and pay attention.”

Read more: What is a deepfake? Everything you need to know about the AI-powered fake media

The good news: it’s really hard to make such a convincing deepfake. It took Ume two months to train the AI-powered tool that generated the deepfakes, 24 hours to edit each minute-long video, and a talented human impersonator to mimic the hair, body shape, mannerisms, and voice, according to The New York Times.

The bad news: it won’t be that hard for long, and major advances in the technology in recent years have unleashed a wave of apps and free tools that enable people with few skills or resources to create increasingly good deepfakes.

Nina Schick, a deepfake expert and former advisor to Joe Biden, told Insider this “rapid commodification of the technology” is already is wreaking havoc.

“Are you just really concerned about the high-fidelity side of this? Absolutely not,” Shick said, adding that working at the intersection of geopolitics and technology has taught her that “it doesn’t have to be terribly sophisticated for it to be effective and do damage.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is well aware of this diverse landscape, and its Media Forensics (MediFor) team is working alongside private sector researchers to develop tools that can detect manipulated media, including deepfakes as well cheapfakes and shallowfakes.

As part of its research, DARPA’s MediFor team mapped out different types of synthetic media – and the level of skill and resources an individual, group, or an adversarial country would need to create it.

MediFor threat landscape.pptx

Hollywood-level productions – like those in “Star Wars: Rogue One” or “The Irishman” – require lots of resources and skill to create, even though they typically aren’t AI-powered (though Disney is experimenting with deepfakes). On the other end of the scale, bad actors with little training have used simple video-editing techniques to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk and incite violence in Ivory Coast, South Sudan, Kenya, and Burma.

Shick said the Facebook-fueled genocide against Rohingya Muslims also relied mostly on these so-called “cheapfakes” and “shallowfakes” – synthetic or manipulated media altered using less advanced, non-AI tools.

But deepfakes aren’t just being used to spread political misinformation, and experts told Insider ordinary people may have the most to lose if they become a target.

Last month, a woman was arrested in Pennsylvania and charged with cyber harassment on suspicion of making deepfake videos of teen cheerleaders naked and smoking, in an attempt to get them kicked off her daughter’s squad.

“It’s almost certain that we’re going to see some kind of porn version of this app,” Shick said. In a recent op-ed in Wired, she and Ajder wrote about a bot Ajder helped discover on Telegram that turned 100,000 user-provided photos of women and underage children into deepfake porn – and how app developers need to take proactive steps to prevent this kind of abuse.

Experts told Insider they’re particularly concerned about these types of cases because the victims often lack the money and status to set the record straight.

“The celebrity porn [deepfakes] have already come out, but they have the resources to protect themselves … the PR team, the legal team … millions of supporters,” Shick said. “What about everyone else?”

As with most new technologies, from facial recognition to social media to COVID-19 vaccines, women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups tend to be disproportionately the victims of abuse and bias stemming from their use.

To counter the threat posed by deepfakes, experts say society needs a multipronged approach that includes government regulation, proactive steps by technology and social media companies, and public education about how to think critically and navigate our constantly evolving information ecosystem.

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