On 4 July 2016, multiple Twitter and Facebook users published links claiming actor (and former wrestler) Dwayne Johnson (also known as “The Rock) was arrested for importing human growth hormone (HGH) into Australia:
BREAKING NEWS! Dwayne Johnson, better known by his stage name THE ROCK Charged With Importing Human https://t.co/xOGIZv4FhE
— Keith Fuller Jr (@kilo_420) July 4, 2016
Although the rumor spiked in early July 2016, it was not new as that time, as tweets reporting the same “news” had beeing appearing intermittently for more than a year. Moreover, social media mentions of Johnson’s purported arrest were driven by an array of “viral shares” sites, none of which included much more than a photograph of the star in handcuffs from People magazine:
The People article to which the site linked did not report any such arrest. Published in July 2015, the People report featured a photograph of Johnson in costume, taken on-set while he was filming the movie Central Intelligence:
Some people can get away with wearing just about anything.
Take the fanny pack, for instance. Most of us see it as accessory of soccer moms and vacationing tourists. But not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
On the set of next year’s Central Intelligence, Johnson plays a character named Bob. And judging by a photo on Johnson’s Instagram page, Bob is partial to wearing a fanny pack — fashionably paired with a Public Enemy T-shirt, of course.
It’s apparently the perfect thing to wear when you’re being arrested by a SWAT team.
The “HGH arrest” rumor appeared to originate with a since-shuttered satire site (TMOSocial.com), as referenced in an August 2015 correction from the law enforcement watchdog site Cop Block:
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I (Ademo Freeman) failed to check the source closely when I posted this article earlier today. The source, TMOSocial.com, is a site geared to post satire and/or fake pieces primarily to promote a product. In this case it was the supplement that was blamed for the arrest in the first place. On behalf of DEO (author) and myself we apologize to Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and the readers for this mistake – though we fully supported his right to trade supplements without harassment. And though the arrest is fake the points surrounding the drug war and harassment of people for voluntary exchange of goods are most certainly valid. Again, our apologies.]
That note was appended to the original article, which had inaccurately cited the celebrity gossip site TMZ as their source for the initial erroneous arrest claim:
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was arrested last night after a resident notified police that a tall man had handed another man pills.When officers arrived at the scene, The Rock became increasingly upset when when police officers told him “Your celebrity status does not put you not above the law” and booked him.
The Rock was released the next day without charges. The LAPD released a public statement stating , “We’d like to apologize to Dwayne Johnson for the inconvenience. Any time the LAPD receives a call, it is our responsibility to make sure it is treated in the most serious manner. For the record the pills found in Dwayne Johnson’s Fanny Pack were in fact not schedule two narcotics.”
The long-circulating fabrication about Dwayne Johnson’s arrest wasn’t the first popular effort from web sites impersonating TMZ. A bevy of other sites used that outlet’s name and visual elements to spread fake news stories about a satanic dungeon in the basement of a Chuck E. Cheese, an implant that alerts people when their partner cheats, a college girl who became comatose after drinking excess quantities of a bodily fluid, Ku Klux Klan members committing suicide over the Harriet Tubman $20 bill, and a study indicating 80% of men in Atlanta are gay.