A fabricated image of an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., believed to be created using tools powered by artificial intelligence, has recently gone viral on several social media platforms, causing a brief dip in the stock market.
The image, which showcased a massive cloud of smoke near a building seemingly close to the Pentagon, quickly circulated on Twitter on Monday morning, gaining thousands of interactions, accompanied by claims of an explosion near the Pentagon. However, the Arlington Police Department promptly confirmed that the image and associated claims were false and that the image was an AI-generated fake.
The Arlington PD took to Twitter to address the situation, stating, "There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazards to the public." Despite this clarification, the image continued to be spread widely across social media platforms, including Twitter accounts associated with conspiracies and the war in Ukraine. As seen above, the image was even shared by the Russian state-media Twitter account, RT, which boasts over 3 million followers. However, the post has since been deleted.
Other than confusing the general population and causing moderate levels of panic, the image also impacted the stock market, resulting in a temporary dip. Information about the alleged explosion was initially shared by the Twitter account @DeItaone at 10:06 a.m. ET. Just four minutes later, the market experienced a 0.26% drop, according to a report from BusinessInsider. The dip was short-lived, and the market eventually recovered after claims that the story/image was fake.
While the image and story are confirmed to be fake, the impact it made highlights the power of AI-generated imagery in spreading misinformation. The image was indeed produced using AI tools, as certain characteristics of the picture align with typical tell-signs of AI-generated images, such as the building columns in the image displaying various sizes, and the fence appearing to blend into the sidewalk at specific points.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency and Arlington County Fire Department preemptively addressed the situation on Twitter, emphasizing the absence of any explosion or danger at the Pentagon. Twitter has since replaced the original post with a disclaimer, stating, "This tweet is based on an AI-generated hoax. The initial report itself was fraudulent and later deleted."
As previously stated, this image and the impact it has caused is a stark reminder of the power of AI-generated images and how they can have real-world consequences. Unfortunately, as this technology is developed and improved, it is likely that we will encounter more instances where AI-generated misinformation disrupts public trust and influences real-world outcomes.