Russell Crowe died, and so did I

Russell Crowe is not deadActor Russell Crowe died, or so rampant rumors online would have you believe. Rest assured that Crowe, the actor who is no relation to me, is alive and his reported death is another hoax all over Twitter and Google Trends that has been put together by the not-so-funny folks at

At the bottom of the fake story about Crowe is a note that the story was "dynamically generated using a generic 'template' and is not factual. Any reference to specific individuals has been 100% fabricated by web site visitors who have created fake stories by entering a name into a blank 'non-specific' template for the purpose of entertainment. For sub-domain info and additional use restrictions:"
The website explains elsewhere that "We do not store or archive any names or visitor information on our servers and do not have a database associated with this website - it's just a series of flat html files using a domain name / DNS trick."

So if you've ever asked who is benefiting from such hoaxes, the answer was there all along. From Harrison Ford to Jeff Goldblum, George Clooney and other fake death news, the FakeAWish website brags about the misinformation it is sending out on the Internet.

Just like the fake Russell Crowe death, I created a few fake stories about myself on the website, although the template only allows celebrity names to be used. Just type in the first and last name of a celebrity and you're ready to start passing along crazy Web rumors. The site also throws out a link to automatically create the fake story for a male or female casualty.

Here are some I created for myself, making me feel a bit like Mark Twain:
There's a fifth option that I'll skip. If you see news of any celebrity dying in Austria, New Zealand, St. Tropez, or in a traffic accident, check if it's a template from FakeAWish. The site encourages users to quickly get the link online: "Now hurry... hurry and share a link with your friends and trick them into believing the article is real!"

There are other ways to fake celebrity deaths, such as rewriting Wikipedia, or stringing together unconnected words in a story to get searchers to think that Will Smith died in a car accident. But as they say in the news business, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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