Yesterday was like any other day for Morgan Freeman. The five-time Academy Award nominee woke up, ate some breakfast ran some errands, and didn't die. So why is some jokester on Twitter saying he did? And, perhaps more importantly, why are otherwise responsible people listening to said jokester? Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo offers a compelling account of how the news of Freeman's non-death spread so quickly, plus tips for other cherished character actors on how to avoid a similarly gruesome, hastily-retracted demise:
Morgan Freeman isn't dead. And CNN didn't report that Morgan Freeman was dead. For a few minutes on Thursday afternoon, though, Twitter erupted with news of the gravelly voiced star's untimely demise ... Blame it on @originalcjizzle, a guy with nearly 1,500 followers who is fond of calling people "jive turkeys." Just before 5 p.m. ET, @originalcjizzle tweeted:
RT@CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home<< wow legendary actor #RIPmorganfreeman
This was a fake retweet: @originalcjizzle was pretending to pass on a tweet from CNN...This is a common way to begin a hoax on the social network—nobody fact-checks anything on Twitter, so faking a CNN retweet is a good way to get your fake death notice to go viral.
Given how easy it is to start this kind of rumor, it's surprising that we're not inundated with more fake celebrity deaths ... Morgan Freeman is just young enough for people to be surprised by his death but just old enough that his death doesn't seem completely out of left field. He's famous enough for you to care that he died but not so famous that you're likely to have been up to date on his health.
In other words: watch out, Kevin Kline.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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