Surprising literally no one, the combination of paid blue checks and generative AI makes it very easy to spread misinformation. On Monday morning, an apparently AI-generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon circulated the internet, despite the fact that the event did not actually happen.
Within about half an hour, the image appeared on a verified Twitter account called the “Bloomberg Feed,” which could very easily be mistaken for a real Bloomberg-affiliated account, especially since it had a blue tick on it. That account has since been suspended. The Russian state-controlled news network RT also shared the image, according to screenshots users captured before the tweet was deleted. Various Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, such as DeItaone, OSINT defender and whale chart shared. even a indian tv station reported the fake Pentagon explosion. It is not immediately clear where this false image and the news originated.
This is far from the first time that a fake image has successfully fooled the internet, but the stakes are higher when the fake event is an explosion at a US government building, rather than the Pope wearing a Balenciaga coat. Some have reported that the false image could be linked to a 25 basis point move in the S&P 500, but the drop did not last long and there is no way to prove that it was the entire result of this hoax. The incident raises the question of how generative AI could be used to game the stock market in the future; after all, Reddit did.
Misinformation is a problem as old as the Internet, but the simultaneous growth of generative AI and the change in Twitter’s verification system makes it especially fertile ground. From the get-go, Twitter owner Elon Musk’s plan to remove existing blue checks from his status and let anyone pay for the symbol has been a disaster. Even if we know that blue checks no longer indicate legitimacy, it’s hard to break a viewing habit you’ve cultivated for nearly fifteen years: If you see an account called the “Bloomberg Feed” that has a blue check posting about an attack on the Pentagon, you’re probably predisposed to think it’s real. As it becomes more and more difficult to detect fake images, we will only continue to see fake news reports like this in the future.