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: FakeAWish.com."
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:
- Luxury yacht sinks off coast of St. Tropez France, Actor Aaron Crowe reported missing
- Actor - Aaron Crowe Falls To His Death In Austria
- Actor Aaron Crowe hospitalized after traffic altercation
- Actor - Aaron Crowe Falls To His Death In New Zealand
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.