Why Is This Fitness Bro Suddenly All Over Facebook?

Meet James Ellis, a fitness trainer whose viral videos have been (inexplicably) 'effing CRUSHING IT.

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.

[h/t: SteamFeed]

[Image: Flickr user Jon Seidman]

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  • Travis Snodgrass

    James was my good buddy and roommate back in college. He is a humble and very likeable guy. He was raised with a good worth ethic and has worked hard for everything he has ever done in life. I seriously doubt there is paid promotion involved, although it is certainly possible. He's just a very likeable guy and those who actually know him share his stuff, I guess, and those who don't know him end up getting it shared with them.

  • Travis Snodgrass

    James was my good friend and roommate back in college. He is a good guy who was raised with a good work ethic. He has worked hard for everything he has accomplished in life. I doubt he has paid someone to promote him on Facebook, although I couldn't say that for sure.

  • Erika Napoletano

    My Facebook status on this exact problem yesterday has garnered the following results:

    934 Shares 790+ "likes" 163 comments (including many from ill-informed haters, trolls, and those utterly ignorant ane believe "DON'T PUT THINGS ON THE INTERNET YOU DON'T WANT SHARED -- IT'S ALL FREE FREE FREE") a post reach of over 149,000

    Which means my post to folks to stop sharing this guy's content was as powerful as many of Mr. Ellis' posts sharing stolen content. I'll chalk this up to a win for the better-than-average-bears in today's internet-driven society.


  • Sander Cha

    My FB status from yesterday: Can everybody please stop sharing James Ellis' videos? This guy steals the content from people's YouTube channels, thus stealing money straight out of the pockets of independent content creators. YouTube pays these people $5-7 dollars per thousand views. Each video he steals is literally stealing tens of thousands of dollars right out of the pocket of these individuals.

  • Its Facebook promoting content uploaded to Facebook over other sources. I have noticed this lately both with photo and video. I see less content being shared that originated on YouTube and other locations.

    If you want your content to show up in newsfeeds, post it directly to Facebook, don't link away from Facebook.

  • Jonathan Haskell

    It's maddening. I told someone yesterday that for the last week my Facebook feed has looked more like YouTube - or America's Funniest Videos. You have to pay to get good content out to people who are asking for it, but I'm inundated with this junk.

  • Marcy Massura

    Yep. I posted about this yesterday. I hadn't heard anyone cry fowl on this and I was going a little insane. Since then, there has been a fair amount of his community (which I now call 'the content cult') who have reached out to me- to call me a liar (or worse) and very sincerely claim things like 'You can take anything you want on the internet. You are supposed to steal stuff. duh' (actual quote folks)......now that more people are sharing (like you FC) I am hoping that not only does this guy knock it off- but that a few people who are consuming content learn about laws, violating TOS (in this case he violates both You Tube and Facebook's).....


  • Robert Scoble

    Easy. Facebook spreads content if it gets engagement. Since his videos are popular, it gets spread.

    Plus, I wouldn't be shocked to hear that he paid some Facebook engagement optimization firm, which has a bunch of influencers ready to like or comment or share his videos out.

    Me? I hide all his videos. I already have enough crap on my feed, particularly viral crap that are poorly sourced.

  • Erika Napoletano

    Not to mention a ready stable of haters ready to leave ugly (and laughably ill-informed) comments on the posts of those of us who have called his behavior out.

  • Heather Raper

    Thom James, you know that for a fact, or is that a question? I seriously doubt he paid to promote that many videos.

  • Erika Napoletano

    The bigger question is his willful violation of YouTube Terms of Service for copying the videos. Doing this circumvents all of the built-in ad serving mechanisms on YouTube. It's also a violation of TOS to copy videos and post them elsewhere (which is why there's that nifty "share" link on Facebook). As well, attribution doesn't translate to permission under Fair Use.

    Facebook has been turning a blind eye to this guy for months. He's building a brand based on stolen content. And this guy is doing the same thing. Both "fitness models/athletes." Same MO. Curious? Methinks so. https://www.facebook.com/frankmedrano99