A photo of a Michaelmas daisy suddenly began to gain millions of views every day. It suspiciously coincided with the permanent blocking of TikTok in India.
A photo of a daisy is now responsible for about 20% of all traffic on one of the Wikimedia Commons servers, a centralized repository of images, sound recordings, videos, and other multimedia files used on Wikipedia.
"We've noticed today that we get about 90M hits per day from various ISPs in India. These are very strange, as they come from wildly different IPs, follow a daily traffic pattern, so we are hypothesizing there is some mobile app predominantly used in India that hotlinks the above image for e.g. a splash screen. We need to investigate this further as this kind of request constitutes about 20 percent of all requests we get in EQSIN for media," this post appeared on Phabricator, a Wikimedia-linked site, on February 3.
Chris Albon, Director of Machine Learning at the Wikimedia Foundation, researched the phenomenon and realized it all started on June 9. Before that, the flower was gaining the usual few clicks per day, but then there were more and more visits every day.
Around June 29, TikTok was banned in India, and already on June 30, the purple flower scored 15 million hits.
After the application was banned, various copies of TikTok began to appear in the country. Presumably, one of them used the picture of a daisy to test the Internet connection. Then the Wikimedia team decided to check all popular applications in India and their copies to find a built-in daisy photo.
After several days of work, investigators confirmed that the image was used by one of the applications, even though it was not displayed in it. It is not yet known exactly how the application uses the flower photo and why this particular picture was chosen.