Despite what you may have read online, [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] did not die in a car accident on Tuesday. The rapper is just the latest celebrity to be bitten by fake death rumors, which rapidly spread on Twitter.
At press time, it was unknown where the rumor started, but some were pointing to the image board 4chan.org as the origin of the phony report that West had died in a crash involving two custom cars in Los Angeles. It quickly blossomed into e-mail chains and comment threads on Facebook and Twitter.
Computer security blog Sophos.com tracked the origins of the scam, tying it to hackers who used the rumor to push the false reports to the top of Internet search engine results. By Wednesday morning (October 21), "Kanye West died" (and variations of the phrase) was one of the most-searched topics on Google Trends.
While a spokesperson for West could not be reached for comment at press time, the rapper's girlfriend, model Amber Rose, tweeted, "This 'RIP Kanye West' topic is not funny and it's NOT TRUE! He has people like myself and his family that love him very much. ... It's in extreme poor taste to have that as a trendy topic. It's totally disrespectful to make up a story like this we're all human ... and we all make mistakes and to say someone died cuz of a mistake is ridiculous. You wouldn't want someone to say that about you."
The fake news story claims that "a bizarre car crash in Los Angeles involving two luxury cars early this morning [left] rapper Kanye West dead, a second injured, a third arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter and a fourth person was detained by police. A Los Angeles Police Department officer witnessed the wreck and saw a red Ferrari and a white Porsche 'spinning out of control' on Jamboree Road between Bison Avenue and East Bluff Drive."
The story goes on to provide a seemingly detailed account of the wreckage and injuries, complete with quotes from an LAPD lieutenant on the scene. It's possible that it was timed to exploit the attention West got earlier this week when the bizarre short film called "We Were Once a Fairytale" he created with "Where the Wild Things Are" director Spike Jonze, was briefly posted on West's blog, then taken down with no explanation.
The fake death reports are just the latest to spread like viral wildfire this year, following on the heels of similar rumors about celebrities Jeff Goldblum, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Emma Watson, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne and Miley Cyrus.