In what is arguably Twitter's biggest death gaffe of the year, a tweeter managed to confuse a tall, rotund, 44-year-old hip-hop pioneer with a 5-foot-2-inch, 87-year-old actress and civil rights activist. False reports of Dee's death came from confusion between her name and that of rapper Heavy D, who passed on Nov. 8. The confusion went viral when Rev. Jesse Jackson informed his followers about Dee's "death." Shortly after, Dee's son-in-law announced that the icon was alive and well.
On Aug. 2, 2010, "Bill Cosby dead" became a trending topic — for the fourth time. No one knows for sure how or why this hoax started, but Cosby called into Larry King Live to confirm that he was alive and kicking. As a four-time survivor of Twitter death rumors, the comedian doesn't find it funny. "To the people behind the foolishness, I'm not sure you see how upsetting this is," Cosby tweeted.
Perhaps the masterminds behind death hoaxes have a penchant for comedians? Murphy became an official #RIP hashtag victim on Dec. 29, 2010, as reports claimed he was killed instantly in a snowboard accident in Switzerland. His rep at the time responded, "Trust me, Eddie is very much alive and well, and definitely not in Switzerland snowboarding."
Maybe Twitter hoaxers are most obsessed with reports of famous black men dying in snow-sport accidents in Switzerland. Earlier this week, Washington became the latest celebrity to be "killed," the story of his demise suspiciously identical to Murphy's. His rep confirmed that at the time of his alleged death, he was filming a movie in Atlanta, which is kind of far from Central Europe.
#TigerWoodsDead began trending on Twitter after a false report from Global Associated News stated, "Tiger Woods was found unresponsive in his luxury vacation house near the Roko Ki Golf resort in the Dominican Republic earlier today and later pronounced dead from what appears to be natural causes." Clearly, he is not dead, and at the time, he was very much alive and leading in the Australian Open.
Nearly two months after his infamous Taylor-Swift-I'ma-let-you-finish moment on the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, West was pronounced dead on Twitter. After seeing the morbid trending topic, then-girlfriend Amber Rose was none too pleased. She tweeted "This 'RIP KanyeWest' topic is not funny and its NOT TRUE! He has people like myself and his family that love him very much." After West's well-being was confirmed, pranksters kept the hoax going by saying it was Swift who killed him.
Last September, the Nelson Mandela Foundation went on record to deny Twitter rumors that the former South African president had died. The false report had created outrage and anxiety, as Mandela, 93, is South Africa's hero.
Rumors that Franklin had died last December, amid reports that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, shook the R&B world — and Twitter — to its core. A source immediately debunked the hoax, saying that the soul queen was "home, alive and recovering," after undergoing an unknown procedure.
A tweet from Fox News announcing President Obama's death was tasteless — even for Fox News. The channel hurried into damage control, contacting the Secret Service to report the assassination tweet — and blame it on an apparent hacking of its Twitter feed.
According to a re-tweet, Freeman died last December. The actor is fine, but the tweets, supposedly from CNN, had fans and followers fooled. "RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home."