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The rise of celebrity death rumors
Why "fake news" about the deaths of Jeff Goldblum, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, and others spread like wildfire online

"Despite what you may have read," said John D. Sutter in CNN.com, "Jeff Goldblum, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford, and Rick Astley are alive." Since the recent deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon, "fake news" of celebrity deaths has spread across the Internet like wildfire, highlighting the "inherent problem with the decentralization of news" online. But it wasn't "all bad" for Goldblum—he was invited onto The Colbert Report to deliver "his own false obituary." (watch)

But it's "dangerous if uninformed readers take certain news at face value," said Sherry Huang in Beliefnet, and there's "something gruesome about adding to the public sense of grief, bewilderment, and disorientation by reporting false celebrity deaths immediately after real celebrity deaths." It's also pretty "disrespectful" to the celebrities who have and have not died.

The Internet certainly makes it easier to disseminate information, said Raju Mudhar in the Toronto Star, but it also makes it pretty easy to quickly fact-check rumors. There's a whole "cottage industry of websites in the business of debunking these false reports," and everyone knows how to use Google. So the real "lesson here is, when in doubt, use a search engine to confirm first and forward later."

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