The deepfake scam era begins with an AI-generated Joe Rogan pushing penis pills on TikTok

A fake of the presenter Joe Rogan speaking.
(Image credit: TikTok / Coffeezilla)

We are in the early stages of seeing how AI technologies are going to change elements of the world, both online and in the meatspace, and so far the verdict is decidedly mixed. Big tech is betting that it will revolutionise things like search before bleeding into all aspects of how we communicate and engage with the world. But this is powerful and cutting-edge technology, which means one thing: Bad actors are going to try and exploit these things in any way they can.

Deepfake videos have now been circulating online for a while; they are AI-generated clips where a person's image is superimposed over existing footage such that it looks indistinguishable from watching the real person. These clips are often accompanied by dire prognostications about how they'll be used in the future and now thanks to TikTok you can view one of the first widely spread examples.

The platform is serving users a scam advert that features an AI-generated version of the enormously popular podcast host Joe Rogan. Rogan is a controversial figure for various reasons, but this ad is absolutely nothing to do with the real Joe Rogan, instead featuring an AI Rogan who discusses penis pills over a video that alternates between shots of 'Rogan' talking and a demonstration of how to buy said pills.

The clip was brought to light by Coffeezilla, an investigator extraordinaire of the internet's murkiest corners—more recently, he's been embarrassing Logan Paul for the influencer's disastrous CryptoZoo project.

See more

Whatever you may think of Joe Rogan, he's the victim here, and I encourage everyone to watch this video just to see how convincing the scam is. The video sees the fake Rogan extolling the virtues of a product called 'Alpha Grind', talking about its bestseller status on Amazon, and talking in a conversational manner that, to my amateur ears, does mimic the presenter's delivery and style: "If you go to Amazon and type in Libido Booster for Men, you’re going to find it right at the top. Because guys are figuring out that it literally is increasing size and making a difference down there."

I've contacted the real Joe Rogan for comment, and will update with any response.

You would not blame anyone for thinking this is the real deal, and the implications of that are pretty horrendous. It is also notable that the cutting-edge of tech is here being deployed to sell depressed men penis pills: plus ça change.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."