Fact check: Viral photo of Pentagon explosion is fake, likely AI-generated

Published May 23, 2023
A picture of an explosion at The Pentagon made the rounds on Monday but was found to be fake.
A picture of an explosion at The Pentagon made the rounds on Monday but was found to be fake.

An image claiming to depict an explosion at the United States Department of Defense headquarters, The Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia rapidly spread across social media on Monday (May 22). The image is fake and appears to be AI-generated.

The Pentagon clarified to AFP Fact Check that no such explosion had taken place on the premises.

No official reports of the explosion emerged from the US and no images from locals were shared beyond the viral AI-generated image.

Other users and journalists pointed to anomalies in the image that showed the image is AI-generated such as objects and landscapes blending, rather than being clearly defined — a typical feature of many AI-generated images.

The Arlington County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department also confirmed that no such explosion had taken place in or near the Pentagon:

The tweet was reshared by the Arlington County Government, and Arlington County Police Department’s official Twitter accounts.

Beyond the social media, non-US media outlets had picked up the fake image prior to it being exposed as fake.

Republic TV, an Indian news channel, broadcast the image as ‘breaking news’. While it did say that official reports had not come in, it still invited Geopolitics professor Madhav Nalapat — an expert on international affairs — to discuss the potential causes and impacts of the explosion.

Russian government-owned TV network, RT also shared the claim on Twitter, amplifying its reach tenfold.

Meanwhile, AP News reported that the posts caused a small dip in the US stock market until the rumor was cleared up by officials.

A keyword analysis on Tweet Binder showed that over 34,000 tweets contained the words ‘Pentagon Explosion’ in the past 24 hours.

Opinion

Editorial

What next for PTI?
Updated 23 Feb, 2024

What next for PTI?

THE incoming government has been carved up. With the major offices apportioned between the PML-N and PPP, the...
Tackling debt
23 Feb, 2024

Tackling debt

MANY would tend to describe a new report warning that the country is headed for “inevitable default”, which will...
Imprisoned abroad
23 Feb, 2024

Imprisoned abroad

THE issue of Pakistani prisoners imprisoned in foreign jails crops up regularly, particularly during parliamentary...
On a leash
Updated 22 Feb, 2024

On a leash

Shehbaz will not find it easy to introduce the much-needed major changes to the economy without running into resistance.
Shameful veto
22 Feb, 2024

Shameful veto

THE US has scored a hat-trick by vetoing, for the third time, a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an...
Truth under threat
22 Feb, 2024

Truth under threat

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one...