There are a couple things you can count on occurring at least once every couple weeks on social media. One, some kind of hoax will go viral on Facebook whether it’s a scam for free airline tickets or Bill Gates passing out money if you “share this post.” The other is news of a celebrity’s passing, when he or she is actually very much alive. When you combine hoaxes and Facebook, the false news spreads quickly, leaving millions of people either perplexed or mourning their idol. The most recent victim of the Internet prank is Drake, Canadian singer, rapper, producer, and star of your favorite Hotline Bling meme.
It’s also becoming difficult, however, to figure out what’s true and what’s not, especially when reputable sites we depend on for news coverage accidentally participate in the hoax without some fact checking. In Drake’s case, it’s uncertain where the story originated, but it was posted as a Buzzfeed Community post, which ended up being aggregated, and then showing up on the front page of Yahoo News. While Buzzfeed has pulled the story and notes that they don’t have control over the content shared in community posts, those who depend on Yahoo for news may have believed it simply because it’s Yahoo. This also shows the problem with news reporting when you let a computer do it.
Social media also plays a significant role in perpetuating untrue stories like, “Rapper Drake Dies in Fatal Car Accident.” According to Media Mass, a Facebook page, “R.I.P. Drake,” which included a description of how the singer died, had acquired over 1 million “likes” on Saturday. And, fans took to Twitter as well, to express their condolences.
— Jessica Bulsnatch (@Jessie_PinkLuv) November 23, 2015
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Drake has been falsely pronounced dead, and this type of hoax regularly occurs with many other celebs such as Morgan Freeman and Betty White. Drake’s reps confirmed on Sunday that he is definitely not dead and has, unfortunately, merely been victimized by a hoax. “He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,” they said. Apparently, this also means sites we think we can trust.
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