A fake photo that appeared to show an explosion near the Pentagon briefly went viral on social media, sending fact-checkers and local fire departments scrambling to refute the claim.
The image purportedly showing a cloud of black smoke next to the US Department of Defense headquarters appears to have been created using artificial intelligence technology.
It was first posted on Twitter on Monday morning and was quickly re-broadcast by verified but fake news accounts.
Defense Ministry spokesman Philip Ventura told Reuters reports of the blast were “false.”
“There were no explosions or incidents on or near the Pentagon reservation and no immediate danger or hazard to the public,” the local fire department, the Arlington Fire Department, tweeted.
Investigator Nick Waters of digital investigative firm Bellingcat described the image as “clearly AI-generated”.
“Look at the front of the building and the way the fence blends into the crowd barrier,” he tweeted.
He noted that there were no other photos, videos or eyewitnesses describing the alleged explosion.
However, that didn’t stop Russian state-backed news channel RT from tweeting “reports of an explosion near the Pentagon”.
Fake accounts masquerading as news outlets with paid blue ticks also retweeted the image.
The hoax is one of several AI-generated images that have made headlines recently.
A convincing deepfake of the Pope in a white Balenciaga down jacket goes viral and wins a Sony Photography Award declined the prize After acknowledging that his entry was created by AI.