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Shrimp Jesus explained | Image: Meta

Facebook’s Shrimp Jesus: The AI Art Phenomenon Explained

The internet’s meme machine is churning out some seriously strange content lately. From AI-generated images of Will Smith eating spaghetti to entirely fabricated trailers starring Henry Cavill as the next 007, nothing is off-limits. And now, the internet has blessed us with its newest head-scratcher: Shrimp Jesus, a social media phenomenon that’s equal parts bizarre and hilarious.

Fake AI-generated images have taken Facebook by storm recently, fueled by the desire for quick clicks and easy virality. Shrimp Jesus is the latest example, with weird images of a shrimp-like Jesus flooding the platform, leaving users both amused and bewildered. But what exactly is “Shrimp Jesus” and how exactly did it come to be?

Shrimp jesus ai
Do you have time to talk about our lord and saviour, Shrimp Jesus? | Image: Facebook

What is Shrimp Jesus?

Born on Facebook, Shrimp Jesus is a new viral phenomenon featuring AI-generated images of Jesus Christ fused with unlikely sea creatures like crabs and shrimp. Part of a larger wave of AI-generated content on Facebook designed to boost engagement, these quirky Shrimp Jesus images highlight the rise of AI-made content. While most depictions of Jesus are more traditional, “Shrimp Jesus” stands out, as a whimsical and unexpected reinterpretation.

The rise of AI-generated content has plagued Facebook in the recent past, inundating the platform with clickbait spam, often designed to manipulate users into clicking on links or sharing posts. This “engagement hacking” is not only frustrating for users but has also made it difficult to find genuine content on Facebook.

What’s Behind the Viral Spread of AI-Generated Images Such as ‘Shrimp Jesus’ on Facebook?

While Gen Zs and younger internet users have moved to platforms like TikTok, X and Instagram, Facebook remains the go-to social media platform for seniors and boomers.  As a result, the platform is steadily filling up with AI-generated garbage posted by spam accounts attempting to maximize engagement through any means necessary. Exploiting the advanced capabilities of AI image generators, these accounts are now targeting older users who may struggle to discern AI-generated images.

Capitalizing on this vulnerability, these Facebook accounts are resorting to posting emotionally manipulative content designed to evoke feelings of nostalgia, fear, outrage, or a desire for positive reinforcement in older users. Meta‘s own policies and algorithm changes are also to blame for the flood of AI-generated content plaguing Facebook today. By relegating material from reputable sources such as news organizations in favour of posts from familial and social connections, Meta’s actions contribute to the proliferation of low-quality content. In a 2018 Facebook post announcing the change, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed a desire for their services to not only be enjoyable but also beneficial for people’s well-being.

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. However, while Zuckerberg seemed hopeful that this shift would encourage meaningful interactions, the reality has been an influx of AI-generated content, overshadowing credible sources.

The Stanford Internet Observatory recently conducted a study tracking the rise of spam accounts. The study found that these accounts are increasing their engagement and credibility by buying fake followers to appear more popular. Their strategy involves flooding real Facebook users’ timelines with AI-generated images and low-quality content, like fake “feel-good” stories and AI-generated pictures of grandmothers celebrating birthdays or children next to elaborate sculptures they purportedly crafted, to boost their credibility. Furthermore, a recent investigation by 404Media, a technology-focused news startup, discovered that AI-generated images were being promoted to users without their knowledge through Facebook’s recommendation feature called “Suggested for You.”

Facebook acknowledges the challenges posed by generative AI, and Meta’s global affairs president mentioned earlier this year that they’re working on labels for it, set to launch later in the year. But the real question is, who wants to see fake AI-generated labelled content on their feeds when there’s plenty of real content from real people, athletes, and brands out there? So next time you see Shrimp Jesus popping up on your feed, remember the internet has officially jumped the shark…again.

Shrimp jesus
AI-generated Shrimp Jesus with over 100,000 likes | Image: Facebook