Explosion near pentagon made with artificial intelligence


A viral AI image of an explosion at the Pentagon caused a brief stock market dip

The Pentagon and local fire departments quickly confirmed the image to be false.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on May 22, 2023

The Russian state-run media outlet RT appears to have fallen for a fake image that purported to show an explosion outside of the Pentagon.

The Twitter account for the Russian broadcaster shared and quickly deleted on Monday what is suspected to be an AI-generated image of dark smoke near the government building in Arlington, Virginia.

The image, which began circulating on Twitter early this morning, quickly went viral. Numerous accounts with verification badges obtained through Twitter Blue likewise amplified the image, causing it to spread even further.

The Pentagon quickly confirmed to numerous media outlets that no such explosion had occurred. Similarly, the Arlington Fire and EMS Department explained on Twitter that such reports were false.

“@PFPAOfficial and the ACFD are aware of a social media report circulating online about an explosion near the Pentagon,” the account tweeted. “There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazards to the public.”

Despite reassurances from official sources, the image continued to spread. The Indian media company Republic even aired a short segment on the explosion before interviewing a “strategic expert” on the non-existent incident.

To make matters worse, a verified account that falsely portrayed itself as being run by the media outlet Bloomberg pushed the manipulated image as well.

“Prime example of the dangers in the pay-to-verify system: This account, which tweeted a (very likely AI-generated) photo of a (fake) story about an explosion at the Pentagon, looks at first glance like a legit Bloomberg news feed,” one user wrote.

At current it remains unclear where the image originated. The incident resulted in the stock market temporarily dipping before ultimately recovering, highlighting the dangers posed by the advancement of AI tools and an increasingly unregulated Twitter.

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*First Published: May 22, 2023, 12:24 pm CDT