On Monday, May 22, late in the evening, a number of electronic media channels in India started to broadcast stories about what appeared to be an explosion close to the Pentagon in Washington DC. While some people posted a brief news update on social media, others broadcast a picture of a thick cloud of smoke rising from a building that was probably close to the Pentagon.
Nick Waters, a digital investigator with Bellingcat, a well-known investigative news website, made an important observation not long after these images attracted widespread notice. Waters emphasized that the extensively shared photos displayed key traits typical of artwork created using artificial intelligence.
It’s also important to note that there were no other credible public accounts with images depicting the claimed explosion. The official Twitter account of Arlington Fire & EMS responded to the online rumors by issuing a message to clarify the situation and stress that there was no explosion or incident happening within or near the Pentagon.
Arlington County, Virginia is home to the Pentagon, which serves as the US Department of Defense’s main office. There is no immediate danger to the public, as the tweet expressly noted that “There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation.”
The images were broadcast on television by Republic News at around 7:45 pm, and a “strategic expert” was summoned to explain the incident. Messages like “RT reports explosion near Pentagon,” “Images show huge plumes of smoke,” and “More details awaited on Pentagon situation” were featured at the bottom of the screen.
Times Now Navbharat, News18 Madhya Pradesh, and First India News all shared a newsflash with their followers on social media to let them know about the occurrence. Zed News initially made a video report about the incident, however it was later taken down.