WASHINGTON: A fake image of an explosion at the Pentagon briefly went viral and caused a ten-minute-long dip in the markets on Monday (May 22), stoking further talk that generative AI could cause problems to society.
The image, which many observers suspected came from artificial intelligence, was spread by several accounts, forcing the Pentagon to comment that there was no such explosion.
Two tweets were sent at 10.09am local time on Monday and amassed over half a million views in just a few hours.
"We can confirm this was a false report and the Pentagon was not attacked today," a spokesman for the Pentagon said.
The Arlington, Virginia fire department also reacted, posting on social media that there was no explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon.
The incident followed other occurrences of fake imagery that also created buzz recently on the internet, including former US president Donald Trump getting arrested and Pope Francis in a puffer jacket.
Posts with this claim shared an image purportedly depicting a cloud of smoke near a white-fenced building. The content, however, appears to be AI-generated.
The image was shared by numerous verified Twitter accounts with blue check marks, including one that falsely claimed it was associated with Bloomberg News, according to CNN.
Nick Waters, justice and accountability lead for online investigations group Bellingcat, described the image as “clearly AI-generated” on Twitter and pointed to visual anomalies such as the frontage of the building and the appearance of the fence.
The building in the image shared online is white in colour and shows a triangle structure on the roof. This does not match images of the five facades of The Pentagon building in shape or colour, per available imagery on Google Street View, according to Reuters' fact check.
The earliest tweet found by AFP sharing the Pentagon image came from a QAnon-promoting account that has previously shared disinformation, though the original source of the image was not known.
Emerging generative AI technologies make it easier for non-specialists to create convincing images in just a few moments, instead of needing the expertise to use programs such as Photoshop.
The shared image caused the markets to be knocked for a few minutes, with the S&P 500 stumbling by 0.29 per cent compared to its Friday close before recovering.
"There was a dip likely related to this fake news as the (trading) machines picked up on it, but I would submit that the scope of the decline did not match the seemingly bad nature of the fake news," said Pat O'Hare of Briefing.com.