The soon-to-be Mr. Kim Kardashian was said to have met his maker in 2009 after a rumour began circulating on Twitter that West “was killed in a collision that left a second person injured, a third arrested for manslaughter and a fourth person detained by police.” It was all cobblers, of course, but it really upset West’s then-girlfriend Amber Rose, who wrote: “This ‘RIP Kanye West’ topic is not funny and it’s NOT TRUE!”
During July of last year, it was reported on Twitter that Sheen had suffered a heart attack, and the site’s users went into mourning for one of their favourite colourful characters. However, soon enough Charlie tweeted to tell users that he’d been enjoying nothing more than a “long nap” and was “very much alive.” Phew!
Little over a week after Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, the Twitterverse was sent into further paroxysms of grief when it became “apparent” that Jeff Goldblum had fallen off a cliff while shooting a film in New Zealand. While Goldblum soon popped up on TV to reassure everyone that he was alive and well, some Australian news agencies fell for the hoax hook, line and sinker, even reporting that “New Zealand police are saying that it is a correct story.”
They say a picture paints a thousand words. They’re wrong, as we found out when hackers broke into Britney’s Twitpic account in 2009 and posted a picture of a cross with the message: “Britney has passed today. It is a sad day for everyone. More news to come.” It wasn’t true. And nor was an attack several months later, which alleged that Ms. Spears had pledged her soul to Satan.
Those hackers were out in force again in 2011 when they took control of the Fox News Politics Twitter account and announced that President Obama had been killed after suffering two gunshot wounds. In fact, they even had the gall to announce the ascension of the Vice President in another tweet, writing: “We wish @joebiden the best of luck as our new President of the United States.”
The hashtag #RipJustinBieber is rather like the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, in that it seems to come round every year without fail. While Bieber’s been able to pour cold water on the rumours of his demise every time they come up, that still hasn’t stopped his fans from insisting that RIP now means Really Inspiring Person.
The mainstream media got hoaxed in 2010 when news of the Shawshank Redemption star’s death was reported on Twitter via a suspicious “retweet”, which read: “RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home.” Of course, CNN had said nothing of the sort and claimed that they would “aggressively investigate” the prankster behind this simple but effective hoax.
Pope Benedict XVI
In March 2012, a spoof account claiming to be owned by the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone tweeted (in Italian): “The Holy Father unexpectedly passed away this afternoon. We announce this with grief and consternation.” Naturally, this upset more than a few Twitter users. But happily, a little over six hours later, the real Cardinal Bertone waded into the fray and revealed that it was all a hoax. Then the Vatican registered @pontifex, and the rest is history.
Gabriel García Márquez
The 85-year-old Nobel prize-winning Columbian author found himself in the headlines in May 2012, when a Twitter account purporting to be owned by the Italian writer Umberto Eco posted the message: “Gabriel García Márquez dies. I received the news now from New York.” The social media site went into mourning and tributes began flooding in. But it turned out that, far from being deceased, Márquez was actually just visiting family in America.
The Onion’s “sexiest man alive” was pronounced dead on Twitter in 2012 a little over a year after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died of a heart attack. Rumours began circulating on the microblogging site that North Korea’s leader had been killed while visiting Beijing, and a spoof account called BBC Live News helped spur things along by tweeting: “Confirmed breaking news. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un assassinated. Updates to follow.” The only update that followed, though, was the news that His Gorgeousness was still very much alive.