The word spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and the Blogosphere. Jon Bon Jovi,  iconic 80s rocker had passed away of a heart attack in New Jersey at the age of 49.  Jon Bon Jovi was even trending on Twitter. Where did this information come from? Just a random WordPress blog that no one had ever heard of.  It was enough to make even KIIS-FM in Los Angeles report it as fact.

December 19 was the day that the world learned of the death of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il.  3 short names? I guess that’s easy to confuse.  In reality, the rumors of Jon Bon Jovi’s death were greatly exaggerated, and passed on by people who didn’t look for a reliable source to confirm whether or not there was any truth to the rumor. Later, Jon Bon Jovi appeared and had some fun with the rumor, as he posed with his “message from heaven“, which he said looked a lot like New Jersey.

In our high speed, ultra-connected electronic world, it’s easy for false rumors and stories to travel the world in an instant. From fake Amber Alerts to breathless stories of Facebook charging for it’s services, even those who are careful can spread rumors to all of their online friends. How do find out what is true and what’s not before you hit the send button?

There are reliable sources that can help one confirm or deny rumors of celebrity deaths or the latest viral messages going around Facebook.

For all things celebrity, TMZ.com gets its news fast but generally accurate. TMZ  was one of the first, if not the first, to confirm Michael Jackson‘s death.  If it’s on Google or Yahoo! News,  it’s most often an Associated Press story that’s quoted.     I have my issues with the major news sites, but when it comes to a celebrity death, it’s usually vetted.  I have had a couple of times when celebrities from my youth have passed (such as Grass Roots lead singer Rob Grill) where the information took a couple of days to find it’s way online.

Whenever anything appears in my Twitter or Facebook Timeline that doesn’t seem to make sense, I will check out snopes.com. You can put a few lines of the message in and find out if the item is true.  When Facebook made it’s changes in September, in addition to the expected complaints and demands to “change it back”, rumors spread the Facebook would begin charging, but if you posted this viral message on your wall, your wall would turn blue and you’d have one of the free accounts….of course it had to be true because “it was on the news!” (no one ever says what news source).  Placing the phrase  “Facebook charging it was on the news” into Snopes search engine brought this result: http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/fbcharge.asp. Some of the “protest pages” on Facebook actually contained malware.

There are times I wish that before someone posts rumors that a popup window would come up saying “Have you checked Snopes?”. It would make the world a little easier.

What rumors, death or otherwise, have you fallen for (or were smart enough not to?)

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