You can’t believe everything you see on the interwebs. That goes double for anything you see on a breaking news site that allows average Joes to post stories without the intervening hand of….well, anyone.
So, despite what you may have seen on Twitter, 32-year-old singer Wouter De Backer, better known as Gotye, is alive and well. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a victim. Gotye is a victim of the latest fake news generated/social media powered celebrity death hoax.
The story first popped up on CNN’s citizen journalism site iReport, which allows anyone and everyone to upload photos, videos, etc. without any sort of screening and fact-checking. Of course, the purpose of iReport is to give people a venue for breaking news from their own backyard – an interesting idea in theory. But, as you can see, if one “citizen journalist” goes rogue and starts a death rumor – it can spread pretty fast, partly because everyone sees the CNN logo and immediately gives the story more credibility.
Here’s what the story looked like as it spread across social networks (it’s not up anymore).
The story read that Gotye shot himself:
At 4:32 AM EST, it was reported that Gotye had shot himself in the head with a 9mm handgun. He was pronounced dead at 4:45 AM, and the investigation concluded that the cause of death was suicide. It was confirmed shortly after by family and friends. He was quickly taken to the Central Montmorency Hospital, but died from his injuries shortly after. His family has stated that they plan a closed funeral.
Gotye took to Twitter to refute the rumor:
I’m not dead. #Pinkalbumtitles
The fact that celebrities are having to actually come out on Facebook and Twitter and tell the world that they actually aren’t dead is a testament to just how fast these death hoaxes can spread on social media. And they are becoming so prevalent these days that as a celeb, you’re just not cool unless Twitter has killed you.
The “CNN” tag on this story made it particularly potent, virally speaking. As always, the advice for social media users is simply this: double check before you share.
[Via Sophos Naked Security]