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AI-Generated Image of Pentagon Explosion Creates Confusion Online, Affects Markets

The photo was then re-shared by hundreds of social media accounts, including many with blue check marks, raising concerns that the explosion might be real.

An Artificial-Intelligence generated image of an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. caused confusion online and briefly affected stock markets after many believed it to be real.

A verified Twitter account on Monday shared an image on the social media platform showing a large cloud of black smoke near one of the buildings claiming that there had been an explosion near the Pentagon.

The photo was then re-shared by hundreds of social media accounts, including many with blue check marks, raising concerns that the explosion might be real. Outlets, including the Russian government-backed media company RT, shared the pictures.

“Reports of an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington DC,” the Russian state news agency posted on Twitter. The tweet has since been deleted.

The image and the claims were later reported to be fake news, according to the Arlington Police Department.

"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," the Arlington PD tweeted Monday. The fake news was also confirmed by the Department of Defense’s Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

However, the impact of the image was so strong that the stock market fell by 0.26% four minutes after the picture was shared. The stock market quickly bounced back.

Additionally, the prices of U.S. Treasury bonds and gold briefly climbed, suggesting that investors were looking for a safer option to place their money.

Experts believe the picture was likely generated by AI, indicating that the misuse of the popular tool could generate unwanted chaos.

"Check out the frontage of the building and the way the fence melds into the crowd barriers. There's also no other images, videos or people posting as first-hand witnesses," Nick Waters of the open-source investigations group Bellingcat posted on Twitter.

“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,” University of California, Berkeley computer science professor Hany Farid told AP. “The windows in the building are inconsistent with photos of the Pentagon that you can find online.”

The attack most likely raised sensitivities since the military complex was previously attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, as part of the al-Qaeda sponsored 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

At 9:37 a.m., while the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were also under attack in New York City, American Airlines Flight 77 was downed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 passengers and another 125 people inside the building.

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