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The ‘dead internet theory’ makes eerie claims about an AI-run web. The truth is more sinister

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the "dead internet theory", which claims that a significant portion of online activity and content, including social media, is predominantly generated by artificial intelligence (AI) agents rather than humans. It explores the implications of this theory, including the potential for AI-driven accounts to be used for disinformation campaigns and propaganda.

🙋 Q&A

[01] What is the "dead internet theory"?

  • The "dead internet theory" claims that activity and content on the internet, including social media accounts, are predominantly being created and automated by artificial intelligence agents.
  • These AI agents can rapidly create posts alongside AI-generated images designed to farm engagement (clicks, likes, comments) on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • The theory suggests that many of the accounts that engage with such content are also managed by artificial intelligence agents, creating a cycle of artificial engagement that no longer involves humans.

[02] What are the potential implications of the "dead internet theory"?

  • The article suggests that the "dead internet theory" goes beyond harmless engagement farming and may involve a sophisticated, well-funded attempt to support autocratic regimes, attack opponents, and spread propaganda.
  • As these AI-driven accounts grow in followers (many fake, some real), the high follower count legitimizes the account to real users, potentially allowing these accounts to be deployed by those with the highest bid.
  • This is critical as social media has become the primary news source for many users, and bot-fueled disinformation campaigns have been found to sway public opinion and amplify or distort narratives associated with extreme events.
  • The article cites examples of large-scale, pro-Russian disinformation campaigns that have used bots and AI to create and spread fake information, reaching millions of social media users.

[03] What is the significance of the "dead internet theory"?

  • The "dead internet theory" is a reminder to be sceptical and navigate social media and other websites with a critical mind, as any interaction, trend, and especially "overall sentiment" could be synthetic and designed to influence the way people perceive the world.
  • The article suggests that the freedom to create and share thoughts on the internet and social media is what made it powerful, and bad actors are seeking to control this power.
  • Social media organizations are seeking to address the misuse of their platforms, but the article notes that with recent advancements in generative AI, the quality of fake content will only improve.
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