Instagram’s most viral AI meme is ‘All Eyes on Rafa’. 2 artists claim credit. : NPR

The image on the right was created by Zila Abka in February. He says he created it with Microsoft’s Image Creator. On the left is a viral image that Amirul Shah said he created using an AI image generator tool.

Image by Amirul Shah/AI and Zila Abka/Microsoft Image Creator


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Image by Amirul Shah/AI and Zila Abka/Microsoft Image Creator

Two Malaysians separated by 900 miles both take credit for a synthetic image of Gaza, an AI-generated photo that underscores issues of authorship and ownership in an online landscape augmented by AI-generated content.

The story behind the “All Eyes on Rafa” graphic, which has been shared nearly 50 million times on Instagram and other platforms, begins at the northern tip of the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.

There, in February, Zila Abka was playing with Image Creator, Microsoft’s AI tool, at home.

Abka is a 39-year-old science teacher and AI art hobbyist. He is also a pro-Palestinian activist. She wanted to create political art depicting people staying in camps in the Gazan city of Rafah.

Zila Apka is a school teacher in Malaysia.  He is active in the Facebook group Prompters Malaya, which is mostly a gathering place for Malaysian AI artists to showcase their work.

Zila Apka is a school teacher in Malaysia. He is active in the Facebook group Prompters Malaya, which is mostly a gathering place for Malaysian AI artists to showcase their work.

District Abkha


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District Abkha

After the phrase “all eyes on Rafa” went viral, Abka said he wrote a prompt for the AI ​​tool to create an image of white tents spelling out the phrase amid dense rows of other tent camps. These words became a rallying cry after the representative of the World Health Organization He used them Attention should be paid to the situation in the region where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have been displaced.

When Microsoft’s Image Creator spits out a graphic, Apka puts two watermarks on it: one indicating it was created by AI; Another claim is that she is the creator.

She liked it. So he shared a post in his language – Malay – on a Facebook group on February 14 Stimulates MalayaA gathering place of around 250,000 mostly Malaysians, they share AI-generated art, sometimes about the war in Gaza.

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“I wanted to spread the word and highlight this issue, and now I hope everyone will do everything they can to show solidarity with the Gazans,” Abka told NPR.

Agba There is no talk about making the film yet.

Abka: ‘I think it’s mine, but the watermarks are gone

From there, she basically forgot about it — until last week, when she saw a very similar image on Instagram that went viral following an Israeli strike on the city that killed dozens and sparked global condemnation.

But the picture has changed. Her watermarks are gone. Snow-capped mountains looming over the tents, an almost surrealist touch, extend the film as an AI riff on the Middle Eastern landscape of Gaza.

Zila Abka created this image in February.

Zila Abka created this image in February.

Zila Apka/Microsoft Image Creator


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Zila Apka/Microsoft Image Creator

At first, she was angry that someone had doctored her picture and removed her name from it. Additionally, he was initially concerned that the “AI-generated” disclaimer was missing because tens of thousands of people were re-sharing it across the web.

She zoomed in to explore every letter and nook of the viral image. She decided it had to be hers.

“Everything about the structure of the words and the arrangement of the ‘tents’ is the same, except for the extended area,” he said. “When I saw it, I thought, yes, I think this is mine.”

But her irritation soon subsided as the loan was not available.

“I don’t think any AI image that’s ever been created is fully owned by anyone,” Abka said.

In fact, the US Copyright Office is repeating itself Rejected Copyright protection for AI-generated images puts AI images in a legal gray area because they lack human authorship.

However, it was Abkha’s unique motivation that brought the film to life. While promoting support for Gaza has always been his main motivation, he said it has to be worth it.

“If the intention was to spread awareness,” Abka said of the version of the image that went viral, “I think I should thank that person.”

The person behind the account ‘Shahv4012’

That person is Amirul Shah, known as Shaw4012 on Instagram. He is also Malaysian.

The two do not know each other and have never interacted.

Abka took her picture, edited it, and is believed to have created an Instagram “template” that took off on social media, amassing nearly 50 million shares on Instagram and Millions more On other social media platforms.

Abka thinks Shaw cropped her image above her watermarks, then edited it with a tool that uses AI to expand and reimagine the photo’s background. She believes this because she tried it with her own AI rendering and got results similar to the viral image.

Shah’s photo has his own watermark with his Instagram account tag @chaa.my_.

Added an image created by Amirul Shah to an Instagram template augmented by celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid.

Added an image created by Amirul Shah to an Instagram template augmented by celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid.

Image created by Amirul Shah/AI


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Image created by Amirul Shah/AI

Shah, when interviewed, denied copying Abkha’s work. Instead, he shared a different version of events.

Shah, a 21-year-old college student in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, has not previously spoken about his process.

Photo enthusiast Shah, He says he’s been playing around with an AI image generator lately. Thinks used Microsoft’s Image Creator is the same service Apka used, but he says he doesn’t remember.

When she added it to her Instagram “template,” it went viral, as influencers and celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid amplified it to their millions of followers.

The image looks eerily similar to Abka’s, but he says he’s never seen Abka before making his own.

However, the size of the words, the placement of each letter, and the sets of AI-generated tentacles next to the phrase remain the same. But Shaw’s version is depicted from a high aerial view with deep and long shadows cast by snowy mountains.

He said he was trying all kinds of Gaza-related AI images as a form of activism, not an angle for virality.

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“My goal is not to be famous,” Shaw told NPR. “I wanted to establish justice for all the Palestinians there.”

Shah says AI images are spreading fast

It is highly unlikely that the same exact AI image will be generated twice.

Of dozens of attempts to recreate the image using Microsoft’s Image Creator, NPR has never heard of a tool that comes close to going viral. Most of the time, the tool struggled to correctly pronounce “All eyes on Rafah”, a limitation of many AI image generators, which can depict words misspelled or twisted in some way.

These are the results produced for NPR by Microsoft's Image Creator after being prompted to create a realistic-looking aerial photo of Rafa, in tents.

These are the results, produced for NPR by Microsoft’s Image Creator after being prompted to create a realistic-looking aerial photograph of Rafa, which overstated the phrase “all eyes on Rafa” in the tents.

NPR/Microsoft Image Creator


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NPR/Microsoft Image Creator

Shah, who regularly shares posts on social media highlighting the plight of Palestinians, said she noticed that authentic photos and videos of the war were limited on Instagram.

“The image from AI will spread rapidly in a short period of time,” he said. “In the world of social media, we can’t show the real picture because that would cause the picture to be censored and users might get blocked,” Shah said.

It’s a concern echoed by other activists requested Graphic images showing the atrocities of the war in Gaza Removed from sites, or suppressed by social media algorithms.

Some commentators criticized the meme for portraying a sanitized version of the war in Gaza, turning the human horrors on the ground into an easily shareable AI image.

Abka and Shaw both reject that idea, saying that AI imagery can be an effective way to get people’s attention and get them engaged in some way in the war.

However, there is no agreement among them as to who created the viral image that sparked a worldwide debate about the authenticity of the online activity.

When pressed on Instagram Live to respond to Abka’s claim that her image was copied, Shah blocked an NPR reporter.

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