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AI-Generated ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ Image Ignites Social Media Firestorm

In this post:

  • A viral image titled “All Eyes on Rafah” has been shared more than 46 million times on Instagram. 
  • The image has attracted a lot of attention and controversy concerning its impact and the reasons behind its spread. 
  • The AI image stirred discussions as to whether it is raising awareness or is just part of performative activism.

A recent image captioned “All Eyes on Rafah” has recently received much attention and has been shared more than 46 million times on Instagram. This image, which is thought to have been created using AI, shows indistinct shapes and colors on a background of mountains. 

Also Read: How Does AI Tech Influence Military Decision-Making? The Harsh Realities of the Israel-Palestine War

The image has attracted a lot of attention and controversy concerning its impact and the reasons behind its spread. The phrase “All Eyes on Rafah” has been doing the rounds for months now, stemming from something that Rik Peeperkorn of the World Health Organisation said in February. 

WHO Official’s Comments Inspire Activist Slogan

Rik raised awareness of 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in Rafah suffering from continuing Israeli attacks. The saying then became popular among activists and eventually got incorporated into a number of graphics, including the current meme.

All Eyes on Rafah image
Image source: X

The successful story template was created by the Instagram user known as “shahv4012” with watermark to the account “chaa.my.” Other factors that enhance the image’s shareability are Instagram’s “add yours” feature which saw the picture go viral in no time.

It should be noted that the design of the image also contributes to its widespread adoption. This makes it less probable for it to be censored by the social media algorithms that have a tendency of reducing the exposure of graphic content.

Lack of Context Stirs Further Controversy

However, this same abstraction has not been without controversy. Critics have suggested that the photograph indeed depicts violence in Rafah in a way that sugarcoats the act, suggesting that the reality behind the photograph is completely different and that knowledge of the context behind the tragedy is necessary for viewers to grasp what is happening. 

This has stirred discussions as to whether that means the images are indeed helpful in terms of raising awareness or are just part of performative activism. One user on X stated,

“The issue with ‘performative’ mass-posting is that it doesn’t link to any resources, information or action. Participation especially from ppl who were largely silent feels self-serving.”

Also Read: UN Experts Condemn the Use of AI by Israel to Commit ‘Domicide’

In response to the criticism, shahv4012 addressed the criticism through an Instagram story. Quoted by Time magazine, shahv4012 stated,

There are people who are not satisfied with the picture and template, I apologize if I have made a mistake on all of you.Whatever [you do], don’t look down on the Rafah issue now, spread it so that they are shaken and afraid of the spread of all of us.”

It has also caused controversies with regard to the fact that there are no direct indications of “Palestine” or “Gaza” in the image. The critics’ concern is that these specific identifiers may not be understood by those who do not follow the situation the message is referring to.

Meta Faces Censorship Allegations

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has been accused of censoring posts that oppose Israel and support Palestine. Human Rights Watch indicated in December that Meta was guilty of “systematic and pervasive moderation practices” and that the views of anyone supporting the Palestinian cause have been banned since the escalation of conflict with Israeli forces in the aftermath of the October 7 terrorist attack.

Also Read: Meta’s AI Chief Says It’s Too Early to Worry About AGI

Recent attempts by Meta to label images generated with AI as such add another layer to this problem. The “All Eyes on Rafah” graphic, which was said to be AI-generated, nonetheless effectively demonstrates the issues of moderation that can arise on a large platform. Some have compared ‘All Eyes on Rafah’ to the ‘black square’ trend made during the Black Lives Matter protests last year.


Cryptopolitan Reporting By Brenda Kanana

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