Fake AI-generated image of explosion near Pentagon causes US stock market to drop

Incident highlights growing challenge posed by spread of AI-created misinformation

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An AI-generated image that appeared to show an explosion near a building in the Pentagon complex circulated on social media platforms on Monday, causing a brief drop in the US stock market.

The picture, which seemed to show a large cloud of smoke near the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, in Arlington County, Virginia, quickly spread on Twitter, including on verified accounts.

It remains unclear from where the image originated.

The US Department of Defence has confirmed that the image was a fake.

The fire department for Arlington tweeted that it was aware of social media reports about the explosion. It said there had been no explosion or other incident and there was no danger to the public.

The image and claims of the explosion were shared by Russian government-backed news outlet RT.

“Reports of an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington DC,” RT said to its more than three million followers, in a since-deleted tweet.

The incident highlights the challenges facing the spread of misinformation through Al technology, as well as verification on Twitter since the platform overhauled its subscription service, Twitter Blue.

Until last month, the platform gave out blue check badges to users whose identity the platform had verified.

Under the new Twitter Blue programme rolled out last month, individuals can pay $8 a month for a blue check mark.

Updated: May 23, 2023, 6:36 AM