In the past week, Chumlee of “Pawn Stars” died, Floyd Mayweather was arrested, and actor Wayne Knight died–if you listen to fake news websites.
Articles about each of the aforementioned celebrities went viral, getting hundreds of thousands of likes and a slew of actual news reports refuting them, saying they’re false.
Both Chumlee, born Austin Russell, and Knight went on Twitter to say they’re still alive and well. Chumlee added that he’s actually lost weight. Mayweather also wasn’t arrested, and that was published on fake news site Huzlers.com
Tim Stevens, editor at large at CNET, told CBS: “A site like TMZ makes maybe 100 million page views a month. Obviously, these fake sites aren’t getting anywhere near that, but if they can get really a fraction of that, they can make tens of thousands of dollars off of one of these fake stories over just a couple of days.”
“If you’re someone who just casually reads headlines or reads the first couple sentences of a story, you probably would never notice that these stories are fake,” he added.
Rich Hoover, the purveyor of celebrity death hoax websites FakeAWish.com and Global Associated News, told the broadcaster: “It’s important that the articles are structured so they’re not slanderous. In almost every single article, there’s a statement that says ‘drugs and alcohol were not a factor’.”
A few years ago, he told the New York Times that his fake news pieces generate a significant amount of revenue for him.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some twisted sense of satisfaction or accomplishment,” he said.
EBuzzd reacted to the death hoax coverage by CBS.
“While we lavishly swim in our mounds of benjamins and enjoy our ‘tens of thousands of dollars’, as the report says, we’d like to thank CBS News for reporting with a neutral mindset while refraining from trashing eBuzzd. Maybe we could take a lesson from CBS News and their reporting style (nah…just kidding!),” it said.