Fact Check: AI Conspiracy Video Of 14-Foot-Tall Antarctic 'Opium Bird' Is NOT Real

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: AI Conspiracy Video Of 14-Foot-Tall Antarctic 'Opium Bird' Is NOT Real AI Generated

Did a Danish scientist discover a 14-foot-tall white bird in Antarctica? No, that's not true: This fictional scientific discovery video was fabricated with artificial intelligence and follows a recently trending formula to produce eye-catching conspiracy content to monetize it on social media. The images of the scientist and his purported discovery, and the voice of the script reader resembling that of podcaster Joe Rogan, were all generated with an AI program. The fictional "Opium Bird" is an AI-generated cryptid that went viral on YouTube and TikTok in September 2023.

The video was posted on Facebook as a reel (archived here) by the page Bones Skull on February 23, 2024. It was captioned with these hashtags:

#caughtoncamera #creature #conspiracy #conspiracy #historytime #conspirancytheory #conspirancytheory #conspirancytheory #theoryhub

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Mar 19 16:26:44 2024 UTC)

The images of the Opium Bird that appear in this video were made with text prompts to an AI image-generating program. Lead Stories verified this (pictured below) using the AI image-detection browser extension from Hive Moderation.com, which determined that there was a 99.8 percent chance this image was AI-generated. The 1:26-minute-long video has no moving footage but consists of 20 still-image cuts that are spliced together using visually dynamic transitions in the style found in the CapCut video editing program (video examples here).


The giant white bird, purported to be 14 feet tall, is naturalistically rendered in the video's AI images, like a cross between an albatross and a heron -- but the internet's original AI-generated Opium Bird looks like a spooky creature of folklore that might be half plague doctor and half Muppet. The Opium Bird concept was developed by an artist known as Dre VFX, tracing its first known appearance to a series of short looping AI-generated video clips that were posted on YouTube on September 15, 2023 (pictured below). The website KnowYourMeme.com has an entry on this fictional creature, which became known by additional names -- "Erosion Bird" and "Meme Form 2027." It has attained the status of a "generated cryptid," a creature (like Mothman or Bigfoot) that is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as "a creature that is found in stories and that some people believe exists or say they have seen, but that has never been proven to exist."


(Image source: YouTube screenshot taken on Tue Mar 19 21:48:05 2024 UTC)

There is a parallel account to the Facebook page Bones Skull with the handle @bonesskull8 on TikTok that also posted the Opium Bird video on February 23, 2024. Lead Stories found an earlier edition of this identical narrative posted on November 22, 2023, by @incident056. This earlier video is not an identical copy, but may have used the same text prompts to generate the AI images (pictured below) and both videos use the same text-to-speech script with a generated Joe Rogan voice. The @incident056 video (pictured below left) and is titled with many hashtags including the podcaster's name:

Joe Rogan on The Opium Bird Found ln Antartica#joerogan #joeroganexperience #caughtoncamera #mythicalcreature #creature #opiumbird #extinct


(Image Source: Lead Stories composite image with TikTok screenshots taken on Tue Mar 19 22:55:32 2024 UTC)

The screenshot below shows thumbnails of the formulaic conspiracy videos posted by @bonesskull8. In recent months many content creators have been producing these videos, which must be longer than a minute to take advantage of TikTok's "Creativity Program," which is described on this FAQ page:

The Creativity Program Beta is designed for you to create longer, high-quality videos and unlock real-world opportunities. This program offers higher cash incentives with earnings based on qualified views, giving you the potential to earn 20 times the amount previously offered by the Creator Fund.


In a March 4, 2024, video posted on YouTube by Media Matters (embedded below), titled, "Why TikTok Is Becoming A Conspiracy Playground," disinformation researcher Abbie Richards explains what she discovered about the trend of AI-generated conspiracy videos. She even learned some tricks of the trade from YouTube tutorial videos like Joe Sbiti's "How To Create VIRAL Conspiracy Theories Videos (New Viral Niche)" and made her own AI-generated video with a fake Joe Rogan text-to-voice tool.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks on false narratives crafted with AI tools can be found here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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