Dead Internet Theory
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The Dead Internet Theory is a conspiracy theory hypothesizing that most of the internet has been taken over by artificial intelligence and most of the content on the web is fake and not produced by real humans. The theory was created by anonymous users of 4chan's /x/ (paranormal) board and Wizardchan around September 2019 and popularized over the following years online, becoming one of the most well-known internet mysteries.
The Dead Internet Theory seemingly stems from an anonymous post (shown below) made to either 4chan or Wizardchan on September 16th, 2019. The post was shared on 4chan's /x/ board on September 25th, 2020, by a user asking for opinions on it, inspiring over 330 replies in the following days.
The post hypothesizes that much of the content on the internet is produced by AI networks, likely run by the government and those in power, along with paid influencers, for the purpose of creating consumers for cultural products. The writer explains the modern internet as a "hot air balloon with nothing inside" as opposed to the internet of 2007 and earlier. As evidence of the theory, the writer mentions:
- Internet users they knew who just vanished from the web one day without a goodbye.
- Claims they see repeated / recycled threads on 4chan, writing, "A [thread] would be posted in 2015 […] then the very same thread, with the same text, pics and replies would appear in 2016 and beyond."
- The evolution of the meme raptor Jesus to bachelor frog to Pepe, writing, "Am I the only one who sees a clear evolution, a link? It's as if this meme or entity[…] was on 4chan since day one and has grown within it from the tiniest seed."
- "Algorithm fiction" and the perceived "sterility" of of fiction that "caters to the lowest common denominator and follows the same template," writing, "algorithms are manufacturing modern fiction."
- The rise of "fake people" online, for example, "Youtube people who talk about this or that," politicians, actors, etc, claiming some of them could be CGI or deepfakes.
- Claims that sometimes, the contents of a web page are entirely different on a phone as opposed to a browser, writing, "entire threads, numerous and well-replied, will be on one but not the other."
The post was shared by Agoraroad user IlluminatiPirates on January 5th, 2021. The user also provided a rough timeline of how and when the internet got taken over by AI, claiming that 2017 was the turning point (shown below). They write, "the U.S. government is engaging in an artificial intelligence-powered gaslighting of the entire world population."
The thread also includes an image of someone on 4chan using Chat GPT to fabricate a response to another anon to further support the theory (shown below).
The Dead Internet Theory became a viral conspiracy theory and topic of discussion online over the following years. For example, on August 31st, 2021, The Atlantic published an article about it. Between September 13th and February 10th, 2022, YouTuber All Time posted three videos about the Dead Internet Theory, gaining over 1.8 million collective views (shown below). On March 24th, YouTuber The Why Files also posted a video on the theory.
On October 1st, a Redditor made a post to the /r/conspiracy subreddit offering a supposed way to "prove" the Dead Internet Theory by Googling a term and clicking "repeat the search with excluded results" to reveal the true number of posts about a topic, garnering over 240 upvotes in five months. On October 31st, The Swaddle then published an article about what the theory predicted about the future of digital life.
The theory also became intertwined with other conspiratorial topics in the early 2020s. On January 6th, 2023, a Redditor made a post to /r/conspiracy sharing a screenshot of an article claiming that some doctors who "pushed" masking, vaccines and lockdowns for COVID-19 turned out to not exist as evidence of the theory, garnering over 900 upvotes in two months.
 4chan (via 4plebs) – Dead Internet Theory
 Agora Road – dead internet theory most of the internet is fake
 The Atlantic – Maybe You Missed It, but the Internet ‘Died’ Five Years Ago
 YouTube – The Why Files
 Reddit – conspiracy
 The Swaddle – What the ‘Dead Internet Theory’ Predicted About the Future of Digital Life
 Reddit – conspiracy
Mar 03, 2023 at 01:00PM EST
Mar 03, 2023 at 01:59PM EST
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