Wayne Knight Hoax: Should Death Parody Websites Be Illegal?

Wayne Knight Hoax: Should Death Parody Websites Be Illegal?

The Wayne Knight hoax has some wondering why anyone would create a rumor that would declare Wayne Knight dead. The website TMZ.today is a TMZ parody site that managed to fool many on Twitter and Facebook, but who are they? And should such websites be illegal?

In a related report by The Inquisitr, the Wayne Knight hoax declared that the Seinfield actor was killed in a tractor trailor accident. At first some people believed but then others realized it wasn’t the real TMZ and the site was also using a crash photograph from several years ago.

The parody website TMZ.today apparently is owned and operated by the same group or person who operates Ebuzzd.com. If you click on the “Contact Us” link on the TMZ.today homepage it links to the other website, which also happens to be featuring the Wayne Knight hoax as its primary story of the day. There’s also a third website that’s a parody of US Weekly called Usmagazine.us, which has the same story and links back to the other two websites.

The three websites don’t exactly advertise who owns the websites but WhoIs.com reveals that Ebuzzd.com was registered in January of 2014. The registrant is listed as DomainsByProxy.com, which means the person wants to keep their identity a secret. But if you check Usmagazine.us the domain was literally set up yesterday. This time the registration information lists a Ryan Wiseman of San Antonio, Texas and it even lists an email, address, and phone number. Oops?

But the Wayne Knight hoax is apparently the tip of the iceberg. Various singers are pregnant. One guy lost an arm. These organizations even ran an article on their US Weekly parody site that killed off Family Ties actor Brian Bonsall.

“According to police in Torrance, the former child actor was found dead in his Cabrillo Hotel room around 11 a.m. Bosnall was discovered by housekeeping staff after he failed to return his hotel key card after his check-out time.”

Just like Wayne, Bonsall also saw the death hoax and responded to it on Twitter:

In general, parodies are often considered to be protected free speech as defined by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. But there are reasonable limits to free speech. Reckless or malicious speech is not protected, especially if the actions result in actual harm to someone. Of course, in this case both celebrities made a joke of the situation, so it could be argued there was “no harm, no foul.”

Do you think stories like the Wayne Knight hoax should be protected under free speech laws related to parodies? Or do you think such websites are the online equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater?