All Eyes on Rafah: Why is the trend being criticised?

In the past 24 hours, an image titled 'All Eyes on Rafah' has swept across Instagram, amassing over 43 million shares

Rafah has become a focal point amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas - and now an AI-generated image of the city in the southern Gaza Strip has gone viral.

The 'All Eyes on Rafah' image, created using artificial intelligence technology, depicts rows of tents, with white structures in the centre spelling out the message.

The post that sparked the campaign originated from an Instagram account that has posted only once before.

The phrase 'All Eyes on Rafah' can be traced back to a statement made by World Health Organisation official Richard Peeperkorn in February.

He said "all eyes are on Rafah" following an evacuation order from Israel's Prime Minister, which came despite the large number of Palestinians sheltering there.

Celebrities with high numbers of followers sharing the post is likely to have contributed to how widely the image has been shared, increasing its visibility, and encouraging millions more to share it.

Algorithm factors on social media platforms are also likely to have had an impact.

Parent company of Facebook and Instagram Meta has content rules which restrict graphic and politically charged posts and the type of image shared may have in fact boosted the image's reach on social media.

Because it is a non-graphic representation of the crisis, it could have bypassed these restrictions, making it easier for users to share.

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However the image has also faced criticism from some who argue that it fails to accurately represent the violence occurring in Gaza, suggesting that it is a 'sanitised' depiction, which makes it easier for people to engage with the issue.

Others argue the AI-generated nature of the image and its basic portrayal of the refugee situation gloss over the reality of the situation facing the people in Rafah.

Some defend the image, noting that its ability to circumvent Meta's restrictive content algorithms is precisely why it has been so widely shared.

Approximately 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in the city of Rafah, as they have fled from Israeli offensives in other parts of Gaza.

Over the weekend, an Israeli strike resulted in the deaths of at least 45 civilians in Rafah.

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