Unveiling the Sinister Truth Behind the ‘Dead Internet Theory’ and its AI-Run Web

Unveiling the Sinister Truth Behind the 'Dead Internet Theory' and its AI-Run Web

The “dead internet theory” suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) and bot-generated content have overtaken human-generated content on the internet. This theory has gained attention due to the popularity of AI-generated images of shrimp Jesus on platforms like Facebook. These hyper-realistic images have garnered thousands of likes and comments, raising questions about the prevalence of AI-generated content and its impact on the internet.

According to the dead internet theory, AI agents are responsible for creating and automating posts and images on social media platforms. These agents aim to generate engagement, such as clicks, likes, and comments, by using AI-generated content. The shrimp Jesus phenomenon is an example of how AI has learned to create absurd and religiously-themed content that goes viral.

However, the dead internet theory goes beyond AI-generated content. It suggests that many accounts engaging with this content are also managed by AI agents, creating a cycle of artificial engagement that no longer involves humans. This raises concerns about the potential manipulation of social media for various purposes, including propaganda and supporting autocratic regimes.

While the motivation behind these AI-driven accounts may initially seem harmless, there could be a more significant agenda at play. As these accounts gain followers, both real and fake, their high follower count legitimizes them to real users. This means that a large number of accounts with high follower counts can be deployed by those with the highest bid. Given that social media has become a primary news source for many users worldwide, this manipulation of follower counts can have significant implications for public opinion.

There is already evidence of social media manipulation through bots and AI-generated content. Studies have shown that bots on platforms like Twitter have disseminated articles from unreliable sources, leading real users to engage with and share misinformation and disinformation. These manipulative tactics have been used in the aftermath of mass shooting events in the US and in large-scale pro-Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining support for Ukraine.

The influence of bots and AI-generated content is substantial, with reports suggesting that nearly half of all internet traffic in 2022 was generated by bots. With advancements in generative AI, the quality of fake content is only expected to improve. Social media organizations are taking steps to address this issue, but the scale of the problem remains significant.

The dead internet theory serves as a reminder to approach social media and other websites with skepticism. It highlights the need to navigate the internet with a critical mind, as any interaction, trend, or overall sentiment could be synthetic and designed to manipulate our perception of the world.