On 21 September 2016 a message was circulated cia Facebook claiming that actor Brad Pitt, whose split from wife Angelina Jolie had just been announced, had died by suicide:
This message was a malicious hoax aimed at stealing personal information from Facebook profiles. Clicking the link resulted in a permission request from a disreputable app to access the user’s profile:
Intrepid readers who bypassed the permission pop-up were redirected to a fake news story about the actor’s alleged death:
Brad Pitt, 52, a multiawarded American actor and husband of Angelina Jolie, 41, shot himself in the head at a shooting range on Sunday. He was under significant stress because the couple ‘were going through a divorce and he had a history of depression’, sources have said.
The clickbait web site responsible for creating the above-quoted story has published several other celebrity death hoaxes. In recent weeks, this outlet has falsely claimed that Vin Diesel, Nicolas Cage, Jaden Smith, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone and John Cena have passed away.
On 11 August 2016, the same site also falsely reported that Pitt’s wife, Angelina Jolie, had died in a suicide.
Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she was divorcing Brad Pitt on 20 September 2016 sparked the circulation of a series of false rumors, including that Pitt was the author an essay titled “A Secret of Love,” and that his former wife, Jennifer Aniston, went on an angry tirade on the Today Show.