Hoffman the victim of 'death hoax' website

Sam Downing, ninemsn
11:38am February 3, 2014
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A shady website that spreads misinformation about celebrity deaths has struck again after the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

As breaking news of Hoffman's death spread on social media early Monday morning Australia time, it was almost immediately followed by "reports" from a site called Mediamass claiming his death was a hoax.

The site also spread confusion by claiming Hoffman had been declared dead in a viral hoax two days before his life ended.

"The February 2014 report has now been confirmed as a complete hoax and just the latest in a string of fake celebrity death reports," says Mediamass's page on Hoffman.

"Thankfully, the actor best known for his roles in The Master, Mission: Impossible III or Capote is alive and well."

Sadly, Mediamass's reports of a hoax are themselves a hoax: New York City police confirmed that Hoffman, 46, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday morning.

Screenshot of a Mediamass page falsely claiming Philip Seymour Hoffman is the victim of a death hoax, which was circulated after he died (Mediamass)
Screenshot of a Mediamass page falsely claiming Philip Seymour Hoffman is the victim of a death hoax, which was circulated after he died (Mediamass)

The Mediamass page sparked more confusion about Hoffman's death by also claiming that "rumours of the actor's alleged demise gained traction on Saturday after a 'RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman' Facebook page attracted nearly 1 million of 'likes'."

No such Facebook page ever existed and nor was Hoffman the victim of a death hoax shortly before his death — but the misinformation nevertheless fooled a number of media outlets.

Mediamass, which resembles real celebrity gossip websites, hit the mainstream in December after it muddied early reports of Paul Walker's death by claiming that it was also a hoax.

The site is believed to the work of Chinese pranksters who aim to satirise mass media by circulating hoax reports about celebrity deaths, pregnancies and other rumours, according to Kernel magazine.

It also falsely claimed that actor James Gandolfini and musician Lou Reed had not died.

Mediamass keeps "death hoax" pages for hundreds of living actors, which all use a similar template to Hoffman's page.

For example, its page on Tom Cruise claims the alive-and-well actor has also been the victim of a death hoax that spread after an "RIP Tom Cruise" Facebook page gained 1 million likes.

© ninemsn 2014
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