On Sunday, as the music world mourned the death of Bee Gee Robin Gibb, something in the Twittersphere caught like wildfire. Reports from Austria said that the great comedian Robin Williams died in a fall in the mountains while filming. Of course, fans took it seriously and tweeted and tweeted the news until Goldie Hawn made a retweet. However, one tweeter found out that he wasn’t in Austria as stated in the botched news report and all went well in the Twittersphere again.
Robin Williams is one of many, many celebrities and other people caught in the hoax of things—and for a brief moment, the news media had their share of fun. Whether it’s confusion or to poke fun of a celebrity, the celebrity death tweet has been commonplace since the dawn of Twitter. In recent years, however, the news media—especially on the Internet—has paid close attention to when someone posts a tweet mentioning a fallen celebrity. In some cases, the
Why has it been commonplace to report on false death rumors and spreading them like wildfire at the same time? Here’s some speculation why:
Twitter As Fact
Back when Twitter didn’t exist, if someone tried to spread a rumor, it was either sensationally smacked down or taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, Twitter has set the bar low and celebrities and some news agencies have taken it by heart to post it as soon as possible. Example: In the days after Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009, someone on Twitter announced that actor Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day) died while filming. When you spread a rumor so much, people will take it as true and one news source even reported that “New Zealand police are saying that it is a correct story.” Of course Jeff Goldblum’s death was false and he’s still making movies. Why does this happen? The Internet forces us to compete for who will be the first to break the news. Perhaps verifying before tweeting would be better on your credibility than just trying to one-up another.
How can you confuse Robin Williams with Robin Gibb? Apparently one guy named @jcm2009 thought one was the other. His tweet went so viral that even a fellow celebrity made Williams’ death credible. When @jcm2009 realized he made the mistake, he corrected it quickly and apologized profusely. Unfortunately, Twitter has made goofs go out quicker than ever.
It’s Too Good To Resist
While many in America mourned the death of Whitney Houston last February, someone posted Tweets that Madonna had died—complete with messages of “RIP Madonna.” Of course, with some people on Twitter not reading the news or verifying it, the tweets seemed to grow more by the minute. However, when people realized it was a hoax, some on Twitter blamed Lady Gaga fans for spread the false rumors. Some pro-Madonna supporters even went so far to counteract rumors of her death by tweeting or hashtagging “RIP Lady Gaga”—in reference to the similarities between the legendary pop singer and the new queen of pop. On the flip side, some celebrities even take the rumors with humor, like Snooki from Jersey Shore for instance.
Which celebrity do you think will be the next Twitter death hoax? Tell us here.