You probably have not heard of viral sensation James Ellis, "Actor/Fitness Model and follower of JESUS CHRIST," as he describes himself on his Facebook page, which has over 1.3 million likes and counting. But you may have come across one of his videos in your news feed recently. For reasons that are still a mystery, these sketchy videos have been showing up everywhere—even in the feeds of people who have no idea who Ellis is.
Views-wise, Ellis's videos are approaching rarefied BuzzFeed-traffic territory. Like deadlifts on leg day, each post is KILLING IT, garnering shares and likes in the tens of thousands.
As SteamFeed points out in this excellent summary, none of the videos shared are actually Ellis's. They're all viral finds taken from other sources and re-uploaded, with the only attribution applied being: "**** VIDEO FOUND ONLINE All credits to video owner."
Shady? A little bit. We've reached out to Ellis with a few questions about his sudden Facebook fame and will respond if we hear back.
The bigger question is why Facebook is surfacing these lowest-common denominator viral hits to begin with. Last summer, Facebook pledged to prioritize "high-quality content"—memes and other viral gunk from unreliable sources were out, ostensibly to make room for content from reputable websites.
So how did Ellis suddenly become the Facebook whisperer? Did he crack the secret code? Were Facebook's algorithm's tweaked? Have we communally been browsing the interweb for "sick abs," and now Facebook's tapping into our cookie history? We've reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post when we hear back.