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:
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.