Charlie Sheen: Survivor
A recent rumor claiming that Charlie Sheen had died has been disproved by Sheen’s ex-wife, Denise Richards. The rumor quickly made its way through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. The very nature of such sites makes it simple for misinformation to spread quickly without any fact checking. It some regards, Facebook is kind of like Fox News, but with an audience slightly more in touch with reality (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/john-farrell/2010/12/22/university-study-fox-viewers-more-misinformed).
According to the rumor, Sheen died when he lost control of a snowboard and ran into a tree. Which, actually, is something that sounds possible considering that Sheen is a known roustabout with a history of doing all kinds of stupid stuff while inebriated.
Charlie Sheen is hardly the first celebrity whose untimely, untruthful death has been publicized on Facebook and Twitter. Last weekend, for instance, pop star Aaron Carter was reported dead of an overdose. That news too, was untrue. Carter is alive and well, free to sing terrible songs to 12-year-old girls for many years to come.
There isn’t really much that Facebook and Twitter can do to stop the flow of misinformation on their sites. Usually, though, the fake content doesn’t make its way to real news sites. The Sheen rumor, however, was posted on Global Associated News’s site.
Anyone can start a rumor on Facebook about a celebrity’s death. Assuming that you have enough gullible friends, you could send the hoax all over the world in just a few minutes. It’s amazing what people will believe without any evidence at all. When a news source prints it, though, that’s something entirely different. Those people get paid to check the facts.