Fake AI-generated image of explosion at Pentagon briefly disturbs US market

A fake image of an alleged explosion near the US Pentagon in Washington DC caused a brief disturbance through the US stock market.

An image of black smoke billowing next to a bureaucratic-looking building started doing the rounds across social media on Monday. The post claimed that it was an explosion near the Pentagon.

News outlets outside the US were quick to run images before officials jumped in to clarify that no blast actually took place and the photo was a fake.

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense and fake news of an attack sent a brief shiver through the stock market.

Police and fire officials in Arlington, Virginia, where the Pentagon is located clarified that the image was not real and there was no incident at the nation’s defense headquarters.

Experts say the viral image had telltale signs that it was forged using AI, highlighting the threat of spreading misinformation with easy-to-access technology.

Capt. Nate Hiner, a spokesperson for the fire department, confirmed the agency’s tweet was authentic but declined to comment further, deferring to the Pentagon police force, which didn’t respond to the AP’s email and phone messages.

Misinformation experts say the fake image was likely created using generative AI programs that have created eerily realistic but flawed images that have gone viral on the internet.

Inconsistencies in the building, fence and surrounding area are imperfections typically found in AI-generated images, noted Hany Farid, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in digital forensics, misinformation and image analysis.

‘Specifically, the grass and concrete fade into each other, the fence is irregular, there is a strange black pole that is protruding out of the front of the sidewalk but is also part of the fence,’ he told the AP.

‘The windows in the building are inconsistent with photos of the Pentagon that you can find online.’

In March, AI-generated deepfakes showing Donald Trump being arrested went viral on Twitter following news of the former president’s possible indictment.

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