Perils of Twitter’s Paid Verification Revealed by Fake Pentagon Attack Hoax


Fake Pentagon Attack Hoax Shows Risks of Twitter’s Paid Verification System

The recent emergence of a fake image depicting an explosion at the Washington D.C. Pentagon sparked a flurry of misinformed activity on social media. The figure in question was distributed through a verified Twitter account named Bloomberg Feed, which could easily be mistaken for an authentic Bloomberg account due to its shared blue check mark. Added to this, the Russian state-controlled news network RT also shared the image. Various Twitter accounts with an influence of over hundreds of thousands liked and retweeted the tweet, as did an Indian television network.

This incident highlighted a number of underlying issues. Firstly, it demonstrated the danger of paid blue check verification, which is Twitter’s mechanism for verifying user accounts. Removing the privilege from pre-existing accounts and offering it to anyone who pays for it inevitably opens the platform up to malicious use. Furthermore, this case additionally revealed the hazard of generative AI technology and how, when combined with the pay-for-verification motif, it is dangerously easy to propagate false information.

The fake Pentagon image caused a 25-point dip in the S&P 500 index, although it is impossible to reach a definitive conclusion on the extent to which this was caused by the hoax. One could conjure speculation about how generative AI technology could be used to manipulate the stock market, similar to the recent Reddit Wallstreetbets controversy.

The combination of paid blue checks and artificial intelligence makes it tragically simple to spread messages of deception. To mitigate against this risk it is essential that Twitter re-instates the verification process for existing accounts, or equally develops a more secure system in regard to paid verification. Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, must act accordingly. It is also important that users remain vigilant, double-checking the legitimacy of account sources and looking out for any discrepancies. With extra caution taken, the risk of further misinformation can be minimized.

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