On Monday, a tweet of an image made by AI that looked like a big explosion at the Pentagon caused some confusion, including a small drop in the stock market, which was noted. It came from a confirmed Twitter account called “Bloomberg Feed,” which had nothing to do with the well-known media company Bloomberg. It was quickly shown to be a fake.
The Washington Post said that big accounts like Russia Today had already spread the false information before it was proven to be false.
With the tweet “Large Explosion near the Pentagon Complex in Washington, D.C. — Initial Report,” the fake picture showed a big cloud of black smoke rising from a building that looked a bit like the Pentagon. When local officials looked at the picture more closely, they confirmed that it was not a true picture of the Pentagon.
Also, the fence bars and building columns are blurry, which makes the picture look like it was made by a model like Stable Diffusion.
Before Twitter shut down the fake Bloomberg account, it had sent out 224,000 tweets and had fewer than 1,000 followers, according to the Post. It’s not clear who ran the account or why it spread the fake picture. Along with Bloomberg Feed, “Walter Bloomberg” and “Breaking Market News,” which are not part of the real Bloomberg group, also shared the false report.
This shows how dangerous AI-made pictures could be in a world where people share things quickly on social media and Twitter has a paid verification system. In March, many people saw fake pictures of Donald Trump being arrested that were made with Midjourney.
The tweet below verifies the news:
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. pic.twitter.com/SThErCln0p
— Andy Campbell (@AndyBCampbell) May 22, 2023
Even though they were clearly fake, people were afraid that they might be mistaken for real pictures because of how real they looked. In the same month, AI-made pictures of Pope Francis wearing a white coat on social media tricked many people.
It’s one thing for the pope to wear puffy coats, but when a fake tweet shows a government building like the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, the effects could be worse. In addition to causing misunderstanding on Twitter, the false tweet may have had an effect on the stock market.
The Washington Post says that the tweet caused the Dow Jones Industrial Index to drop 85 points in four minutes, but it quickly went back up.
Much of the uncertainty about the fake tweet may have been caused by changes made to Twitter by Elon Musk, who recently bought the company. Musk got rid of the teams that moderated content soon after he took over. He also changed the account registration process so that anyone can pay to have a blue check mark. Critics say that practice makes it easier for false information to spread on the site.
The explosion photo was easy for authorities to spot as a fake because it was not accurate. However, with image synthesis models like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, it is no longer necessary to be an artist to make convincing fakes.
This lowers the barriers to entry and could lead to automated misinformation machines. Because it’s easy to make fakes and Twitter is so easy to share, false information can spread faster than it can be checked for accuracy.
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But in this case, the picture didn’t have to be very good to make an impression. Sam Gregory, who runs the human rights group Witness, told The Washington Post that when people want to believe something, they let their guard down and don’t check if the information is true before spreading it.
He said that the fake picture of the Pentagon was a “shallow fake,” not as believable as a “deepfake.”
“Because people see so many of these cheap fakes,” he said, “something doesn’t have to look exactly like something else to get attention.” “People will take and share things that don’t look right but feel right.”
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