On 5 March 2016, the web site ETHyper published an article claiming controversial pharmaceutical figure Martin Shkreli was shot and killed:
After being shot in a drive-by shooting, we have learned that the worlds most hated man, real name Martin Shkreli, has died outside his home Friday afternoon.
Rising to infamy last year, Martin Shkreli has been getting much attention after raising the price of AIDS medicine by 5000%. Dubbed the “Biggest Douchebag in the World” and the “Shit-head of the year 2015”, millions of people on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have tuned in to rejoice in the news about Martin Shkreli. Sadly, Martin Shkreli’s reign did not last, as he was shot in front of his home as he was getting into his car.
ETHyper wasn’t the first web site to make such a claim. The fake news site LinkBeef published an identical (down to the photos) article in mid-February 2016. Neither story was true, but neither site featured a disclaimer warning readers that its content was “satirical” in nature.
ETHyper‘s “About” page indicated that it took its content from other web sites, and LinkBeef‘s photo of the purported shooting in fact was swiped from news articles about an unrelated tragedy. However, Shkreli was alive and tweeting after the publication of both items:
Chatting if anyone wants to say hi. Haters welcome. https://t.co/gfWZaIEsXB
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) March 7, 2016
LinkBeef is one of many fake news sites which fabricates fictional clickbait stories, including claims that a gang member died after gold plating his genitals, another heralding the birth of a “lab-grown” baby, an item claiming the pilot of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was found alive in Taiwan, and an assertion that a wealthy man sought to recruit scores of prospective mothers to bear his children.