Last night on Twitter, someone impersonating a newspaper writer falsely reported the death of football player Chris Henry. Henry died about 12 hours later, according to news reports, finally making one of Twitter's many fake stories come true.
The real news is horrible enough without the added layer of internet deception. During what police described as a domestic dispute with his wife fiancée, Henry tried to jump into the bed of a pickup truck in which his wife was driving away. He fell and was later found lying on the road and rushed to the hospital. He died at 6:36 am ET this morning.
But Henry was reported dead approximately 12 hours earlier on Twitter. Real and fake deaths were bound to bump up against one another on the microblogging service sooner or later, by sheer chance. Twitter supplies a steady stream of misinformation, including most prominently the prematurely reported death of actor Patrick Swayze, outrage over an Amazon gay book ban that never existed, and the false news that California courts had overturned a gay marriage ban.
The Henry death scam was, as these things go, relatively sophisticated, perpetrated by a scammer who went to the trouble of changing his screen name to "Gerry," calling himself a "Sports Reporter for Dallas Morning News," and attaching a picture of real-life Morning News columnist Gerry Fraley, plus a link to Fraley's page on the newspaper's website. With Cincinnati Bengals receiver Henry known to be in the hospital following a car accident, it would be easier to pass off fake news:
These reports were flatly denied by one of the supposed "sources," and the fakester was even outed by the real Gerry Fraley as fake. An enraged Twitter turned ferociously against the scammer (except for a few people who later insisted he'd been proven his correct, despite the 12 hour gap between his false tweets and the actual death):
The Dallas Morning News must be thrilled with all the people who still think the scammer worked for the paper. Welcome to microblogging, printies!