Viral on Twitter: Fake photo of smoke at the Pentagon causes share prices to plummet

Accounts on Twitter “verified” with blue or gold accounts shared a photo purporting to show an explosion at the Pentagon. Excitement followed.

Screenshot of several tweets with the AI ​​images (Image:  @jsrailton)

After a fake photo of an explosion outside the US Department of Defense was shared on Twitter and other social networks on Monday, even US stock markets fell briefly. This is reported by the US news channel CNN. The supposed photo was an image that was apparently created with an AI generator. It was therefore also shared on the short message platform by a number of accounts that were “verified” with a blue tick, which only makes it clear whether the account is being paid for. In India, the fake recording was even shown and discussed on television.

Distributed by “verified” accounts

According to CNN, the photo-generated was shared by an account that allegedly belongs to the Bloomberg news agency and also has the blue tick, as well as the account of the Russian news agency RT, which even has a gold tick. The gold color is reserved for “official organizations” in the new system on Twitter, so it’s actually a verification. Some of the tweets were supplemented with texts saying that an emergency had occurred at the Pentagon. Finally, even the responsible fire station felt compelled to clarify that there had been no incident in the area. RT has since deleted its own tweet.

The image in question itself shows a plume of smoke behind a fence and in front of a building believed to be the Pentagon. However, a direct comparison shows that things look different. In addition, a closer look reveals some artifacts that are typical of such AI images. The site fence is partially blurred and the building in the background is also partially blurred. An image that was also shared is said to show the White House and also contains a cloud of black smoke in the background. Overall, the event is reminiscent of an alleged photo of the Pope in a down jacket that went viral a few weeks ago. That, too, was created with AI.

The sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has meanwhile pointed out on Twitter that the image created with an AI generator is not the real problem. A photo created in a classic way with Photoshop could also have been at the beginning. Instead, she thinks the changes at Twitter are the root cause of the problem. Because of a “false theory” about how status works, Elon Musk destroyed the existing blue tick system after the takeover. Previously, it served as a valuable indicator of the credibility of content, even if it needed reform and expansion. The biggest beneficiaries of the destruction of the old credibility are the classic news media, with the episode about the fake picture they were done a favor.


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