In a first major example of a piece of misinformation from a phony yet blue-check "verified" news account on Twitter since Elon Musk let anyone and everyone buy their way into verification for $8, an account purporting to be Bloomberg News posted an AI-generated image of an explosion near the Pentagon.
The image was shared early Tuesday by "multiple verified accounts," as CNN reports, causing confusion across the international news media, and briefly sending the S&P index plummeting 30 points and the Dow Jones dipped 80 points in a matter of minutes.
Stocks recovered as soon as it became clear that the image was a fake, but herein lies a prime example of the dangers of Musk's plan to democratize the blue checkmarks without actually implementing a process for verifying who they are, or weeding out bad actors like this.
This morning, an AI generated image of an explosion at the US Pentagon surfaced.— The Kobeissi Letter (@KobeissiLetter) May 22, 2023
With multiple news sources reporting it as real, the S&P 500 fell 30 points in minutes.
This resulted in a $500 billion market cap swing on a fake image.
It then rebounded once the image was… pic.twitter.com/DpHgflkMXP
Per CNN, the story of the possible explosion and the fake photo were shared on a major Indian television network, and then by Russia-based news organization RT.
RT subsequently posted a correction on Twitter saying, "Republic had aired news of a possible explosion near the Pentagon citing a post & picture tweeted by RT. RT has deleted the post and Republic has pulled back the newsbreak."
But it's not hard to extrapolate from this incident and imagine something far graver occurring as a result of a compelling piece of fake news, with consequences far worse than brief dip in the markets. This of course is what people have been worried about ever since Musk announced his plan last fall to make blue-checkmark "verification" available on a subscription basis, with basically no questions asked.
Twitter continues to have policies that ban impersonating others, however with a skeleton crew remaining to do content moderation and clearly few safeguards against bad actors, more stuff like this is bound to slip through.
It also shows the continued dangers of AI when paired with an unchecked social media platform for amplification.
Twitter, which has no PR or comms department, "did not respond to a request for comment," per CNN. But that actually means a CNN reporter got a poop-emoji auto-reply after emailing [email protected].