A purportedly AI-generated photo of a fake explosion at the Pentagon spread rapidly on social media on Monday – prompting mass confusion among users and a brief selloff in the US stock market.
The fake photo, which showed smoke billowing outside the Pentagon, was shared by Russian state media outlet and other accounts alongside claims that an explosion has occurred at the complex. RT later deleted the image.
The Arlington County Fire Department quickly tweeted a message debunking the hoax photo.
“@PFPAOfficial and the ACFD are aware of a social media report circulating online about an explosion near the Pentagon,” the tweet said. “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 Post has reached out to the Department of Defense for comment.
US stocks appeared to briefly dip as the photo circulated, but quickly rebounded after the picture was exposed as a hoax.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 50 points as of noon ET, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the broad-based S&P 500 were both trading slightly higher.
Some users pointed out that the fake Pentagon photo showed clear signs of AI manipulation, including warped sections of fence.
The social media scare will add fuel to concerns among critics who say that advanced AI systems will allow bad actors around the world to spread misinformation and sow chaos online.
Previously, social media users were tricked by viral AI-generated images of Pope Francis wearing a Balenciaga puffer jacket and of former President Donald Trump clashing with the NYPD while being arrested.
In March, Elon Musk and more than 1,000 experts cited the spread of misinformation as a key motivation in their call for a six-month pause on the development of advanced AI until proper safety guidelines were in place.
The experts cited risks including the spread of “propaganda and untruth,” job losses, the development of “nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us,” and the risk of “loss of control of our civilization.”
Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “Godfather of AI,” grew so concerned by the technology’s potential risks that he quit his job at Google last month so that he could speak out without hurting his former employer.
Hinton warned that AI will become more dangerous in the future — with “bad actors” potentially exploiting advanced systems “for bad things” that will be hard to prevent.
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