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TikTok’s Photo Animation filter has its eye on you

Some have used it on family members. Others have animated something more unsettling.


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 14, 2021   Updated on Jul 14, 2021, 1:21 pm CDT

TikTok’s Photo Animation filter is drawing out some emotional—and unsettling—responses.

The filter is relatively new, and allows people to animate eyes and mouths in photos, producing something akin to when the eyes move in a painting in Scooby-Doo. It also lets you uncannily animate your own face.


It can also animate inanimate objects, as well as games and Matthew Gray Gubler posters.


As Know Your Meme points out, similar filters have recently circulated on TikTok, like one from genealogy platform MyHeritage, which allows you to animate old family photos. But people are getting a little more creative with the Photo Animation filter—and are getting much creepier results.


Reply to @g0asx Is it just me, or is this the BEST FILTER! #fypシ #xyzbca #photoanimation #creepy #scary #trending

♬ Nobody – Mitski

Earlier this year, a Tom Cruise deepfake made the rounds on TikTok, and other celebs have been similarly spoofed. Last summer, TikTok claimed it was “adding a policy which prohibits synthetic or manipulated content that misleads users by distorting the truth of events in a way that could cause harm.”

The Photo Animation filter seems fairly harmless—quite a few people have used it to animate deceased family members. But is it deepfake tech?

It’s close, though it doesn’t allow speech to be automated. Perhaps “synthetic content” is more applicable. On MyHeritage’s FAQ page, it explains its Deep Nostalgia tech was licensed “from D-ID, a company specializing in video reenactment using deep learning,” and that it’s only for “nostalgic use.” The #myheritage tag has more than 460 million views on TikTok, after becoming popular in the spring.

Perhaps the Photo Animation filter is TikTok’s in-house answer. We’ve reached out for comment.

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*First Published: Jul 14, 2021, 12:28 pm CDT