Bill Cosby has died multiple times since 2010, according to social media, but while celebrity death hoaxes have become a dime a dozen these days, the most recent Cosby hoax might have been started to teach Internet users a lesson.
Rumors alleging the 75-year-old actor had died surfaced online Monday, but this Cosby death hoax was seemingly different from others in that it was not only a Twitter trend, but also a Facebook page, titled "R.I.P. Bill Cosby." It quickly garnered over 300,000 likes.
The page was set up by user Jonathan Gorman, who was eventually forced to come clean about the hoax once Cosby sent out a tweet proving he is alive, according to Us Weekly.
"My name is Jonathan Gorman and I am the page admin/creator. With the recent slowdown of likes and high amount of attention from news sources. . . I have come to the conclusion that I should tell you all the truth. Bill Cosby is not deceased," he wrote, according to Us Weekly. "I made around 315 THOUSAND people angry." Adding, "I love you all for making me laugh at your stupidity for the past day and a half. You're great."
But is there more to his method than madness?
On Tuesday night, Gorman posted a final message on the "R.I.P. Bill Cosby" Facebook page, writing: "Before I got to bed, one last thing. I hope you all have learned your lesson. DON'T RELY ON SOCIAL NETWORKING AS YOUR ONLY NEWS SOURCE."
This is not the first time Cosby has been declared dead by an internet hoax.
In 2010, three separate death hoaxes named Cosby as the target. The actor expressed anger at the time, telling CNN's Larry King that he wanted the pranks to stop. "I don't know. Maybe a psychiatrist will say I'm feeding [the rumor starter's] ego, but I just want to say to friends of that person: Just tell him to stop, because it isn't funny," he said during an interview on "The Larry King Show."
Online celebrity death hoaxes have certainly gotten out of hand and almost every big name has been at the brunt of the joke.
This week alone, both Rihanna and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" were the subject of death hoaxes.
Earlier this week, a fake article meant to look like it was from a French news site was published alleging that Rihanna had “sunk into an [alcohol-induced] coma before succumbing to a heart attack," according to GossipCop.
Nye's name began trending on Twitter late Sunday as users expressed their shock and remorse over his passing, only to find out it was a hoax.
Pamela Brown Rutledge, Ph.D., M.B.A., discussed the psychology behind celebrity death hoaxes.
"If information is a source of power and connections are a source of social capital, then a hoax is a manipulation of social power," she wrote for Psychology Today in March. "The costs are significant in terms of lost trust and credibility. In Twitter hoaxes, particularly those about celebrity deaths, the perpetrators are counting upon fans' emotional attachment to the celebrities to generate an immediate reaction and override a more measured response of healthy skepticism."
Continuing, "While a hoax may strike some as funny, and there are undoubtedly some instances of funny ones that we might commonly refer to as 'practical jokes,' most hoaxes are designed to promote the psychological or commercial interests of the perpetrator at the expense of the victims."
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