A whole new sub-genre of awful “true crime” content is taking root on TikTok. Posters there are using “artificial intelligence”-powered media creation tools to create fake videos that purport to show actual murder victims, often children, sharing grisly details about how they were killed. Even worse, these AI-generated digital nightmares are exploding in popularity, racking up millions of views while exploiting real victims.
We’ve written a lot about AI-generated content on this website and covered how quickly it’s becoming a destructive force in the world. People are already losing their jobs as unethical companies race to use AI tech to replace as many humans as possible with glorified chatbots. So I was already firmly in the “AI-generated content is bad” camp before a new report showed me how much worse things can get, with some people using the controversial tech to reanimate dead people in order to drive views on social media.
As reported by Rolling Stone on Wednesday, these AI-generated true crime recreations are blowing up on TikTok. I did a quick search and found far too many that had over 100k views. Some had even more. I found one video of an AI-generated young boy describing, in gruesome and horrifying detail via an inhuman robotic voice, how he was tortured and murdered by his father. It had over two million views. I won’t link to them, as these are some of the worst things I’ve seen in a long time, but you can find them very easily. I wouldn’t though. Trust me.
Accounts posting this content on TikTok have thousands of followers and millions of likes and seemingly post new AI victim videos daily. There are multiple accounts posting these types of videos, including some that feature adults and famous politicians, like JFK. But the majority of the most popular ones feature children.
Rolling Stone points out how often these videos get details wrong, including the race, age, and names of the victims that these content creators claim they are “honoring.” Some of these incorrect details might be genuine mistakes, while others are speculated to be purposely wrong in order to get around TikTok’s new rules against AI-powered deepfakes of non-famous people and children.
For years, people (myself included) have questioned the popularity of true crime podcasts, TV shows, and movies. Handled properly, true crime can provide insight into the darker parts of humanity or share stories that would otherwise get covered up by police or the powerful.
But too often true crime content exploits the victims and their family members while making stars out of the perpetrators. This latest trend of using AI-generated recreations of kids who were killed to create yet more gruesome content is likely to spark even more controversy around the problematic genre and its fans.
Personally, I’d recommend you not seek this stuff out. The TikTok videos I saw while looking into this roiled my stomach. It’s horrendous shit and a dark sign that just when you think AI-generated content can’t get any worse, it does, and in a new way you never imagined. There really is no escape from this hell-train, huh?