In an entirely predictable but damning vision of the internet’s future, a fake photograph of the Pentagon on fire has prompted a brief dip in the stock market, showing just how important it is to get the AI-fueled misinformation crisis under control.
Shared by a “verified” account (they paid $8 for a blue tick, that’s it) called “Bloomberg Feed”, the picture depicted smoke billowing out of the Pentagon after a supposed explosion, causing widespread speculation over a possible attack. The caption read, “Large Explosion near the Pentagon Complex in Washington D.C. - Initial Report”, clearly attempting to imitate an actual Bloomberg article. Obviously, the account was entirely fake and highlights an ongoing problem with Twitter’s paid verification process.
Soon, the tweet was shared by prominent Twitter users with large follower counts, causing the image to spread across social media and cause panic. It was even spread by RT, a Russian state media account with 3 million followers, and the markets took notice.
According to Insider, Twitter user DeItaone with 650,000 followers shared the tweet at 10:06 am and the stock markets had dipped 0.26 percent by 10:10 am, just four minutes later. While that number isn’t huge, to happen in such a short timeframe likely indicates something spooked the markets.
They have since recovered and most of the tweets sharing the content – including both RT's and DeItaone's – have since been deleted, but it provides the perfect opportunity to glimpse at a worrying future. The image has all the telltale signs of an AI-generated image – the building’s columns are all over the place, the fence weirdly bleeds into nothing, and the windows don’t align – so it is likely that someone plugged a prompt into a generative AI and shared it as a fake story. It is exactly what experts have been worrying about since ChatGPT, Midjourney, and more demonstrated their extensive capabilities.
Alongside that, it once again shows that the Twitter verification system is now deeply flawed since it became a subscription service, with a simple payment of $8 enough to fool the entire stock market. Seeing is no longer believing, as entirely fabricated events can be made into a convincing “photograph” in seconds, making it increasingly difficult to find fact from fiction, and verification systems therefore exist to signpost trusted outlets.
We would reach out to Twitter for a comment, but it’s clear all we’d receive is a poop emoji.