Is Jayalalithaa Dead? Viral Death Hoax Spreads Online After Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Suffers Cardiac Arrest

Jayalalithaa is not dead, but any concerned citizens who went online to look for a health update on the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister may have been fooled into thinking she had passed away.

The AIADMK leader was taken to the intensive care unit of the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai after suffering cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, The Hindu reported. She is reportedly on a heart assist device and under the care of a team of specialists, hospital officials said in a message on Sunday night.

Though J Jayalalithaa was placed on life support, her condition was described as stable, and it did not appear if she was in danger of dying as the early morning hours on Monday.

And while there were some conflicting reports at first, it appears that Jayalalithaa would be able to recover from the cardiac arrest.

"Our leader Jayalalithaa has recovered well, doing physiotherapy exercise. Soon she will be back to resume her duties," said CR Saraswathi from AIADMK (via India Today).

In the wake of Jayalalithaa's cardiac arrest, rumors spread online that she had actually died. As noted, the rumors of her death were all baseless but still managed to cause a stir online as many people spread the false news stories and memorial messages.

"Rumours about the health condition of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa are spreading like wildfire on social media. Social networking site and messaging apps like WhatsApp are flooded with posts like Jayalalithaa has passed away. While Jayalalithaa is currently under observation at Apollo Hospitals after she suffered cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, rumours on rife that the AIADMK chief has died. "Jayalalithaa is dead. Official announcement to be made at 7:30 AM," said a tweeted. All such posts and reports are false and baseless."
Some people spoke out against those pushing the rumors that Jayalalithaa had died, saying anyone spreading the messages should be punished for inciting panic and spreading falsehood.
The rumors that Jayalalithaa had died may have contributed to some skirmishes that broke out near the hospital on Sunday night. The Hindu reported that some violence broke out near the hospital's entrance, though it was not exactly clear what may have caused it.

It was not immediately clear if the rumors that Jayalalithaa had died were being spread on purpose or whether it was a simple case of miscommunication. In recent years, some websites and people have pushed false reports about the death of political figures and celebrities.

This is a more common issue in the United States and U.K., where every few weeks false reports spread about a celebrity's untimely demise. Some of these fake news reports are meant to drive traffic to websites that then turn viewers into ad revenue. Other cases appear to be people simply trying to stir up rumors.

These are more often focused on actors and athletes than politicians. Some of those hit with false death rumors include actor Adam Sandler, basketball legend Michael Jordan, and actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But while these death hoaxes are generally harmless in nature, the reports that Jayalalithaa was dead could have more far-reaching consequences. India Today noted that Chennai was on edge with the chief minister's health condition, and the false death reports could have ignited political tensions in the region.

While there are reports indicating that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister could be headed to a full recovery, that has not slowed the rumors that Jayalalithaa had died. There were still many messages on Twitter and WhatsApp claiming that she had died from the cardiac arrest, and many people fooled by the reports are still offering their condolences online.

[Featured Image by Saul Loeb/AP Images]