Posting a hoax about someone dying on the Internet is clearly a sick thing to do. Not only can fans and followers be tricked into believing it’s true, so also can family and friends. But there’s another bad result, which is that hackers quickly pick up on the hoax and use it to their advantage. Which is what happened with the RIP Kanye West prank which journeyed from 4Chan to email to Twitter to malware in the space of just a few hours.
There seems to be a new celebrity death hoax every week these days. The last few years have seen Miley Cyrus, Jeff Goldblum, Britney Spears, and many others notably killed off on the Web without actually dying in real life. The latest victim of this style of Internet meme is Kanye West, who was rumored to have been killed in a car crash on Tuesday night.
The emailed report into the car crash involving two luxury cars in Los Angeles was completely made up – there was no crash for Kanye West to have been harmed in – but that didn’t stop it spreading round the Net like wildfire. It’s believed to have been the work of pranksters at 4Chan, never ones to miss out on an opportunity to cause mayhem on the Web while promoting the site at the same time.
The original email prompted a flurry of tweets discussing the alleged crash and Kanye having died. It got so bad that West’s girlfriend Amber Rose was forced to debunk the story on her own Twitter page. But ‘RIP Kanye West’ is still a hot trending topic on the site so it clearly wasn’t an entirely successful attempt at diffusing the rumors. She also referred to the tweets claiming this was justice for his hijacking of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
This RIPKanyeWest topic is not funny and it’s NOT TRUE! He has people like myself and his family that love him very much. It’s in extreme poor taste to have that as a trendy topic. It’s totally disrespectful to make up a story like this, we’re all human and we all make mistakes and to say someone died cuz of a mistake is ridiculous. U wouldn’t want someone to say that about u.
Even this wasn’t the end of the line for the story, as hackers then hijacked it to increase hits to scareware and malware sites. Sophos noted that using search engine optimization techniques meant sites referring to the story containing malware soon planted themselves at the top of Google and Bing search results.
Why anyone would start one of these fake rumors is beyond me. It may seem funny at the time but not only could it upset family, friends, and fans of the star, it could also lead to people losing money to criminals. Which is clearly no laughing matter. The advice to Web users is not to blindly click on links to these kinds of stories unless it’s a source you trust.