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Fake Pentagon Attack Hoax Shows Dangers of Twitter’s Paid Authentication


Literally no one is surprised, the combination of paid blue checks and generative AI makes it all too easy to spread misinformation. On Monday morning, an apparently AI-generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon circulated the internet, even though the event did not actually take place.

Within about half an hour, the image appeared on a verified Twitter account called “Bloomberg Feed,” which could very easily be mistaken for a real Bloomberg-affiliated account, especially since it had a blue check mark on it. That account has since been suspended. The state-controlled Russian news network RT also shared the image, according to screenshots users took before the tweet was deleted. Several Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, such as The Itaone, OSINT defender And Whale card shared it. Even one Indian television channel reported the fake Pentagon explosion. It is not immediately clear where this fake image and news item comes from.

This is far from the first time a fake image has successfully tricked the internet, but the stakes are higher when the fake event is an explosion in a US government building, rather than the Pope wearing a Balenciaga coat. Some have reported that the fake picture could be linked to a 25 basis point move of the S&P 500, but the dip didn’t last long and there’s no way to prove it was entirely a 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 has done it.

Misinformation is a problem as old as the internet, but the simultaneous growth of generative AI and change in Twitter’s verification system makes it very fertile ground. From the start, Twitter owner Elon Musk’s plan to strip existing blue checks of their status and make everyone pay for the symbol had been a mess. Even knowing that blue diamonds no longer signify legitimacy, it’s hard to break a visual habit you’ve cultivated for nearly fifteen years: When you see an account called “Bloomberg Feed” that has a blue tick that message about an attack on the Pentagon, you’re probably inclined to think it’s real. As it becomes increasingly difficult to spot fake images, we will only continue to see fake news stories like this in the future.

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