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AI Menace: Twitter ‘verified’ troll account posts AI-image of blast at Pentagon, US stock market dips

Twitter anyway has been a hellhole of misinformation for years. Now, thanks to AI and the fact that practically anyone with $8 to spare can turn into a legitimate, “verified” troll, is only making the situation more complicated. An AI-generated fake image depicting an explosion at the Pentagon caused a significant stir on Twitter yesterday, leading to a brief dip in the US stock market.

The image was shared by a Twitter account called “Bloomberg Feed,” which had a verified status. However, it shouldn’t come as news that Twitter’s verification process has lost its credibility, as it is now possible to obtain a checkmark simply by paying for it, without any actual verification. The misleading caption accompanying the picture read, “Large Explosion Near the Pentagon Complex in Washington, DC – Initial Report.”

Twitter’s paid verification fails the platform
Of course, Bloomberg did not report the issue of the blast, simply because it did not happen. The account “Bloomberg Feed” was that of an online troll posing as Bloomberg. People obviously won’t pay that much attention to whether a profile is real or not when they are scrolling through their feeds.

As a result, the fake, AI-generated image blew up on Twitter, and gained considerable traction on the platform, resulting in real-world consequences. Just four minutes after it was posted Twitter user ‘DeItaone’, who has over 650,000 followers, shared the image, the US stock market saw a 0.26 per cent decline.

Also read: AI-generated pictures of former President Trump getting arrested send Twitter into a frenzy

Although the market recovered quickly, this incident exemplifies the rapid and effective dissemination of AI-generated misinformation through our existing information channels, particularly on a flawed platform like Elon Musk’s Twitter.

The image itself displays a few distinct characteristics of an AI-generated image. For instance, the fence surrounding the building appears to blend into the sidewalk, and the alignment of the building’s window frames is imperfect.

Influencers have more clout than authentic sources
It is worth noting that even after law enforcement agencies took to Twitter to refute the image, the market reacted negatively.

The Arlington County Fire Department tweeted a response to the circulating social media report about an explosion near the Pentagon more than half an hour before ‘DeItaone’ retweeted the image, stating, “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.”

Twitter has since replaced the original post with a disclaimer stating, “This tweet is based on an AI-generated hoax. The initial report itself was fraudulent and later deleted.”

Also read: Showstopper: Did Pope Francis trade his simple robe for a fashionable puffer coat?

When the troll trolled media outlets
Nevertheless, numerous other accounts, including conspiracy-affiliated ones and the Russian state media account RT, with over three million followers alone, chose to share the post. Once RT realised the image was a fake one, they had to delete the post.

Also read: Fake Disney account gets verified on Twitter, now suspended

However, the damage was already done – several other media outlets and prominent Twitter “influencers” had already reshared and reposted the image, based on RT and ‘DeItaone’s’ tweet.

This incident underscores the significant consequences that can arise from the use of readily available generative AI tools. As we have only begun to explore the full potential of this technology, it is likely that similar cases will emerge in the near future.

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from AI Menace: Twitter ‘verified’ troll account posts AI-image of blast at Pentagon, US stock market dips

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