Tim Allen became a Twitter trend on July 30 after a rumor spread that he died.
The comedian confirmed that he is alive and well at the age of 67 in a tweet that read, “Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to a beautiful day in Michigan only to find out I’m dead?! How did it happen? Can anyone tell me? I’m DYING to know.. #DeadManWalking.” Allen followed that up with a joke when he posted a photo of two hot dogs with the caption, “Ok, I figured it out. Some nosey neighbor saw what I was having for lunch and ‘figured’ I was going to die.”
It is not clear exactly where the rumor that Allen died originated. Among the first people to mention Allen in earnest on July 30 was Barstool Sports’ Dan Katz. Katz posted a photo of Allen and tweeted, “I will give away 5 free Madden codes to anyone who quote tweets this with the correct name of this person.” The Independent reported in July 2020 that Twitter users were exploiting the social media giant’s “algorithm to promote celebrity death hoaxes.”
On June 30, Allen’s Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn, 64, became the victim of a death hoax when a fake news website posted a story saying that Karn died. The fake story referred to Karn as a “lifelong Republican and staunch Trump supporter.” Karn posted a link to the story on his Twitter page while quipping, “Everything about that post is wrong.” Tim Allen is a staunch Donald Trump supporter.
Stars Such as Jeff Goldblum & The Rock Have Been Victims of Death Hoaxes in the Past
Death hoaxes are common in the internet age. In March 2014, ABC News published a guideline for internet users in order to help them to avoid falling for death hoaxes. At that time, a common death hoax suggested that various celebrities, including Jeff Goldblum and The Rock, had died after falling from some cliffs in New Zealand. The ABC article pointed out that readers should be eagle-eyed for “bait text” — information that seems interesting but has been used multiple times in multiple other fake stories.
A Washington Post article on the same topic encouraged users to stick to known websites and noted that “Breaking news stories will usually include the reporter’s name; hoaxes, mysteriously, go un-bylined.”
In 2014, The Week published a list of hoax sites. They included Empire News, The National Report, Huzlers, Daily Currant and Free Wood Post. The website noted that occasionally news stories from satire sites such as The Onion and Clickhole are circulated as legitimate news. The Week article concludes simply that users should “Take 30 seconds to determine whether something is real before you blast it out to hundreds of people. We’ll all have a better internet for it.”
Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman, a specialist in fake news, told DigiDay in 2012, “Fake news relies on viral sharing. If you think about why so many stars are subject to death hoaxes, they’ve been part of a pop culture that people have an emotional connection to. And that is at the core of what makes fake news work.”