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2nd Story

Internet hoaxes pulled about stars, political figures

You can't believe everything you read - especially online.

In the last couple of months the Internet has been hit by some hoaxes that have been picked up by bloggers and other media. For example, Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus and Twilight heart throb Robert Pattinson both have died, if you believed what you had read online. As well, Joe the Plumber, an overnight celeb thanks to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, had apparently gotten together with Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig. All of this was, of course, completely untrue.

"Because the internet is, largely, both democratic and unregulated, it is open not just to gossip and rumor, but outright fiction and lies," University of Victoria professor Kim Blank, who teaches pop culture, told the ParetoLogic newsletter.

"Any cyber-rascal with a modicum of wit or a coaxial axe to grind can post or blog whatever their imagination can cook up. And the best attention-gaining strategy is to create some buzz in the realm of celebritydom. Invent something about Britney, Madonna, Brad, Oprah, or Miley and some poor on-line sucker will run with it. Oh, and by the way, Elvis is not dead."

The YouTube account of Cyrus, whose father unleashed "Achy Breaky Heart" on the world, was hacked, according to a Nov. 18 article on the San Francisco Chronicle's website. The cyber hoax creators posted a video that allegedly showed her being hit by a drunk driver and a message from close friend, Mandy Jiroux, breaking the news to fans.

However, Cyrus is not the only celebrity to be proclaimed dead recently. The Internet was crawling with rumours of Pattinson's premature demise, even though he was out and about promoting his new film, Twilight. Also, a website posing as the respected BBC News had a post saying prolific rapper Lil' Wayne and had been shot and killed and United Kingdom MC Wiley had been stabbed, according to a Nov. 3 story on the Guardian newspaper's website.

On the U.S. political front, Martin Eisenstadt has been behind or claimed responsibility for some popular rumours. The problem is it's hard to blame Eisenstadt - he's not real, according to a Nov. 12 New York Times website story. He was created by a pair of filmmakers and made to appear as a McCain policy adviser. The "think tank" at which he was supposedly a senior fellow, the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy, is just a website. The YouTube clips of him actually feature one of the filmmakers.

There is a real Michael Eisenstadt, who works at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Although he is often quoted in mainstream media, he said he was only dimly aware of his fake counterpart and wanted people to know that he had nothing to do with it.

Before "Eisenstadt" was caught he launched at least one interesting rumour. He reported the "canoodling" of Wiig and Joe the Plumber. Also he claimed to be the source of the story, which Fox News repeated, that former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin did not know Africa was a continent.

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