The rumor that actor and comedian Robin Williams is dead is just the latest in a long line of Twitter death hoaxes or users conflating information to reach an erroneous conclusion, and usually, a mix of the two.
Every few months, it seems there is a spike in “Robin Williams dead” searches after a spate of Twitter activity claiming the actor has died. And Robin Williams is far from the only celebrity frequently killed off accidentally by Twitter users, or on purpose by web trolls seeking out lulz or traffic.
So is Robin Williams dead? No. Neither is Mel Gibson, who has been pitched off an imaginary cliff at intervals by the internet death hoaxing webizens. Nor George Clooney, who was purported to have fallen off the selfsame cliff in New Zealand. Or even Rick Astley, Miley Cyrus, Reba McEntire or Tom Cruise, all celebrities who have been prone to the death hoax urban legend.
One of the things that makes the “Robin Williams dead” rumor and those of its ilk so “sticky” is the fact that it comes from an undated, unverified web tale that may will mistake for an actual news story. So while some elements of a story like one that would run were Robin Williams dead remain (location, details, comment), a date is suspiciously left off, allowing the rumor that the actor has died to pop up every six months or so and confuse many people who are new to the story.
But it appears another unrelated circumstance has reignited the rumor that Robin Williams died- yesterday the music world lost Robin Gibb, a Bee Gee and a fellow 70’s star. Those too young to remember rollerskating to “Stayin’ Alive” or watching Mork and Mindy on the TV might have searched for a dead Robin from the 70’s, turning up one false story about how Robin Williams died in place of a truer one and giving the rumor credence once again.