Robert Redford is not dead, but anyone who may have opened Twitter or Facebook over the New Year’s weekend may have thought the legendary actor had passed away.
Within the past few days a viral death hoax spread across social media, claiming that the actor died in a golf cart accident on a beach in Santa Monica. There were countless messages on Twitter offering condolences and remembering Robert Redford, Reuters noted.
But those who looked a little closer would have seen that the story was a hoax. The report originated from a Twitter account for a news site called Sky Breaking News, which has been the source of some false celebrity death reports in the past as well. The Twitter feed, which has just a handful of followers, is made to mimic the actual news agency Sky News out of the U.K. In the past, that same Twitter handle has spread false rumors about the death of John Travolta.
Robert Redford forced to confirm he isn’t dead https://t.co/wjIJz0qZFZ
— The Independent (@Independent) January 1, 2016
Robert Redford Confirms He’s Still Alive After Twitter Death Hoax https://t.co/0tadTn8c99
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 1, 2016
The death hoax prompted an angry response from Robert Redford’s publicist.
“This is a sick hoax. I just spoke to him and there is no truth to this whatsoever,” said the actor’s rep, Cindi Berger.
Not only is Robert Redford still alive, but he is very active in the entertainment industry, the New York Daily News pointed out. He was most recently seen playing Dan Rather in the acclaimed drama Truth, and is preparing for the start of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, which he co-founded.
But Robert Redford is far from the only celebrity to fall victim to a viral death hoax. Within the past two years or so, it’s become something of a sport for some oddly motivated individuals to see if they can spread fake news of a celebrity’s demise. There have been fake RIP pages on Facebook and a Twitter messages spreading made-up reports, leading to stories about celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Will Smith.
Some celebrities have been hit multiple times. Actor Macaulay Culkin has seen at least two viral death hoaxes, and Morgan Freeman is averaging at least one a year.
There are now even some websites dedicated entirely to spreading false reports. Earlier this year, a site called MSMBC.co, a knock-off of the legitimate MSNBC.com, spread a report claiming that actor-turned-politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had died.
The report claimed, via Snopes, that Arnold was found dead in a short message riddled with grammatical errors and typos.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger was found dead at his Las Angeles [sic], California home. Schwarzenegger was 68 years old.
“Police responded to the L.A. home after receiving a 911 emergency call for a ‘unresponsive male’. Upon entering the residence, police found Schwarzenegger’s deceased body in his bed.
“‘We found Mr. Schwarzenegger in his bedroom deceased around 9:30 pm on Wednesday,’ said Las Angeles Police Chief James J. Freda [sic] in a brief statement to Local 4 CBS News [sic]. ‘We found no reason to believe foul play was a factor in his death but intent [sic] to perform a full investigation.'”
While many of these reports cause a bit of a stir and then go away quietly, occasionally they grow big enough to prompt a response from the victim. In Redford’s case, not only did the actor issue a statement but a number of international media outlets reported on the story as well, reassuring readers that the actor was still very much alive.
The Twitter account responsible for the Robert Redford death hoax won’t be killing off any more celebrities anytime soon. After the controversy this weekend, Twitter moved to suspend the account.
[Picture by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images]