After actor Paul Walker’s death this past week, there has been numerous stories in the news about how he died and the shock it gave everyone, especially those closest to him. One of his most famous co-stars from the “Fast and Furious” movies is actor Vin Diesel.
The Associated Press (AP) wrote an obit for Walker and quoted an Instagram profile, which they thought was Diesel’s. Turns out it wasn’t, it was an impersonator. The AP thought that it was really him, since the profile name was “theREALvindiesel,” as seen in this Media Bistro article. The profile has since been shut down.
The AP released a statement about this mistake, seen here.
I think this story points out two major problems – 1) the fact that the AP, one of the most reputable news-gathering organizations, made such a large error. Since the profile is gone and I cannot look at it and make my own conclusions, I feel that if they looked at the profile at all, they would’ve been able to tell it was a fake. That is their job, to find out what’s real and what’s not, and deciphering an Instagram profile should not be that difficult for experienced journalists.
And 2) how are ordinary people creating these false profiles of celebrities so easily? One way to do so is discussed on Brian Solis’s (digital analyst and author) website, where he talks about how he promoted his new book through a service called LemmeTweetThatForYou, which lets you generate fake tweets. It’s too easy for people to do.
And while celeb profile’s are more difficult to fake, many people create fake profiles about other citizens, as seen in MTV’s show, Catfish. Ordinary people create a profile pretending to be someone else and sometimes it goes on for years and they form serious relationships around this lie.
I think the AP quoting a fake Instagram profile of Vin Diesel should be a lesson for all of us to be cautious on the Internet, and to make sure we check our facts when we are reporting.