A fake tweet that there had been an “explosion near the Pentagon complex,” was quickly discredited by local police and savvy social media users, but still gave the stock market jitters on Monday.
The image of a billowing black cloud near an official-looking, fenced-in building was tweeted by the Blue-check-verified @BloombergFeed account, which, along with several other accounts, has since been suspended.
The confusion about Monday’s hoax confirmed what critics of Twitter Blue — which requires only a monthly subscription fee to be “verified” on the Elon Musk-owned platform — had feared, with fake accounts being confused for legitimate news outlets or companies.
Andy Campbell, author of a book on the far-right group the Proud Boys, quote-tweeted the image before it was taken down. He wrote, “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.”
“We’re all citizen journalists now, whether we like it or not. Our first instinct has to be to seek confirmation from a reputable source before believing anything we see. The need is only going to become more acute, and quickly,” responded one Twitter user.
Another chimed in, “The problem is that this platform now makes it easy for anyone with $8 to impersonate a reputable source, including a stamp of approval from the platform & algorithmic amplification.”
Tweeted Kate Irwin, a producer at GG gaming, “It’s just enabling conspiracy theory creators at this point.”
Twitter Blue has been causing these kinds of costly mix-ups since it rolled out in November 2022, an account pretending to be pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly cost the company millions with a tweet that read, “Insulin is free now.”
“There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazards to the public,” the Arlington, Virginia fire department and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency tweeted in response to the fake report.