Owen Wilson is now the next celebrity to fall prey to the ubiquitous Internet death rumor mill. According to GossipCop, Wilson was reported as having died shortly after a snowboarding accident in a ski resort in Zermatt, Switzerland:
“Wilson lost control of his snowboard and struck a tree at a high rate of speed… Wilson was air lifted by ski patrol teams to a local hospital, however, it is believed that the actor died instantly from the impact of the crash.”
Sound familiar? It’s because it’s eerily similar to the same hoax about Adam Sandler and Charlie Sheen’s fake deaths earlier this week. Only two short weeks ago, Internet goers had to deal with the fake deaths of Morgan Freeman and Aretha Franklin.
While these are not the first fake deaths ever reported, the frequency certainly seems to have come to a peak within the last few months and even weeks. Websites such as Fake a Wish make it easy for the common Internet busy body to make up any news story they want and get it circulating. While there are some instances where the Internet reported the truth, such as for Michael Jackson or Gary Coleman, the vast majority of the time it’s completely false.
Why do so many feel the need to spread these lies? Why do so many buy into it so quickly? Although there are many schools of thought, no one can argue that our time is one of excess social networking. The Internet, along with Facebook and Twitter, have taken over the lives of many. Every time a person sneezes, he feels the need to share that with all of his “friends” or “followers.”
Rich Hoover, founder of Fake a Wish commented, “I’m absolutely flabbergasted by the success of this and the impact these social networks have on communication — and the communication of misinformation.” Yet, it is his website that spreads the malicious untruth.
Back in 2009, CNN Tech weighed in on the topic and made an astute observation: “As information online moves faster and comes from more sources, it’s more difficult to verify what’s true and what may be shockingly false.” It seems like anyone under the age of 40 doesn’t read a newspaper or watch the news anymore; they rely on social network updates to receive their news.
The problem is, how do you know what’s real and what’s false? A good online reader will be able to sort out the true and false by looking at the origin of the content. Is it CNN or Facebook? Newspapers like The Onion make a living on false news, but it’s ok because people know it’s false. Some just fail to notice the disclaimer at the bottom of the article and others don’t even finish reading the article before spreading the bad news.
In order to stop the spread of these false lies, every person needs to take responsibility to make sure this information is from a valid source before adding to the frenzy by posting it on his/her social network page. Don’t be part of the problem and do your part to end Internet death hoaxes.
John D Sutter, Celebrity death rumors spread online, CNN Tech
Gossip Cop, Owen Wilson Victim of Latest Death Hoax