A fake image of the Pentagon on fire posted on Twitter today caused a brief dip in the U.S. stock market, which rebounded after officials had to explain that no such explosion had taken place.
The image of smoke billowing from the headquarters of the Department of Defense spread like wildfire on Twitter, with the fear augmented due to it appearing on verified accounts. Twitter accounts that have very large followings promulgated the image. The account belonging to the Russian state-controlled news network RT was one of them, as was the popular news site ZeroHedge.
Matters were made worse when it seems investors saw the image on a Twitter account called Bloomberg Feed, an account that is not affiliated with the Bloomberg news agency. It’s thought this was the first instance when an AI-generated image spooked enough people to cause real-life ripples in the stock market.
However, the Arlington County Fire Department was soon on the case, tweeting that it was aware of the image circulating on the web and that there was definitely “no explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazards to the public.”
Some Twitter users soon pointed out that while the image was obviously realistic, there was little chance that such an event would appear in just one set of photos without any video evidence.
Confident that this picture claiming to show an “explosion near the pentagon” is AI generated.
Check out the frontage of the building, and the way the fence melds into the crowd barriers. There’s also no other images, videos or people posting as first hand witnesses. pic.twitter.com/t1YKQabuNL
— Nick Waters (@N_Waters89) May 22, 2023
Still, it fooled enough people to cause quite the scare. OSINTdefender, a Twitter dedicated to military matters with 336,000 followers, seemed to believe the image was real. “It’s [sic] appears that the Image being circulated is an AI-generated picture which just shows how easily these sort of images can be used to ‘manipulate’ the information space and how dangerous this could be in the Future,” the account tweeted later. “It’s honestly crazy to me that this is now possible.”
While the commotion was short-lived, there are concerns that as generative artificial intelligence improves at what seems to be an astonishing rate, fake images such as these will become a much bigger problem in the near future, especially as it will take little to no skill to create such images. The fact Twitter now lets anyone who pays $8 a month become verified also brings new concerns that people can more easily be fooled.
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