Now it looks like the Internet hoax has taken on a new twist. Instead of dying, the celebrity “victim” is instead becoming maimed.
That’s what happened to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick Tuesday night in an Internet hoax that spread via Twitter and text messaging.
Here was the fake story as posted on the admittedly bogus Global Associated News: "Eagles QB Michael Vick broke both his legs after being hit by an elderly driving who apparently failed to stop at a red light Tuesday night."
The news quickly spread -- despite the story quoting the non-existent “Philadelphia highway safety authority (HSA)” with the information about the supposed wreck -- as people scrambled to find the information from a credible news source.
Here is the real story: There was no crash, Michael Vick didn’t break anything and he was present for Eagles practice Wednesday morning. NBC10 is even trying to talk to the Eagles QB about his fake brush with death.
This rumor seems to have been spread, in part, thanks to a post on the Global Associated News site that has been behind plenty of celebrity death/injury hoaxes.
The site is the brainchild of Atlanta-based web entrepreneur Rich Hoover and a front for Fake a Wish, which allows users to plug an actor's name into a generator that creates their own celebrity death headlines…
"It started off as a practical joke machine seven years ago," says Hoover. "People can just plug in anybody's name so then they'll prank their friends. But people don't read the fine print, and sure enough, it spreads like mad."
The GAN website even says on the site that everything posted there is FAKE, it even says that at the bottom of the Vick story:
“THIS STORY IS 100 PERCENT FAKE! this is an entertainment website, and this is a totally fake article based on zero truth and is a complete work of fiction for entertainment purposes! this story was dynamically generated using a generic 'template' and is not factual. Any reference to specific individuals has been 100% fabricated by web site visitors who have created fake stories by entering a name into a blank 'non-specific' template for the purpose of entertainment."
Despite the disclaimer, plenty of other sites have used the fake GAN site as a source in celebrity death stories. Heck, in the Vick story's case, it's possible whoever posted the fake story was just playing a cruel trick on their fantasy football league opponent and it wound up spiraling into something bigger.
The lesson here: unless you trust the source, don’t trust the information.