Fake News That Fooled Real News

You may have looked up information on your favorite celebrity and stumbled across an article posted by the website This supposedly-satirical website offers untold numbers of fake, duplicated stories regarding celebrities in the name of humor. There are two primary problems with this scenario, however: the stories aren’t funny and real news sites have been fooled by these phony articles.

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Fake News

While most readers of well-known satirical sites such as The Onion or The Daily Currant typically understand that these websites are at least attempting to be funny, those who discover articles by Mediamass aren’t always aware that the stories are fake – even those writing for legitimate news websites.

The site labels itself as The Mediamass Project : Media criticism through satire. A further explanation continues:

Our website is very new (launched back at the end of October 2012) and still under construction. The ‘People’ section the only active one.

The concept is to select the most typical, representative and recurrent articles across Gossip magazines and to make them available for all the celebrities in our database.

The ‘People’ section is a humorous parody of Gossip magazines, all stories are obviously not true.

Thus thousands of celebrities, Bill Gates in USA, Zhang Ziyi in China, Ranbir Kapoor in India, etc. all have a dog called “Spinee” recovering from successful surgery.

We won’t change the world, but at least we’ll laugh trying.

Though they claim their celebrity articles are a “humorous parody,” they aren’t presented with any semblance of humor or satire. These auto-generated stories are duplicated for each celebrity, with only basic personal details (such as age or gender) changed to suit the celebrity for which the article is written. Take, for example, their article which “debunks” celebrity death hoaxes. The same article exists for every celebrity on the website. It isn’t news, it isn’t real, and it isn’t funny.

Example: Fake stories debunking celebrity death hoaxes

As stated above, one type of story that can be found for every person on Mediamass “debunks” a death rumor supposedly circulating about that celebrity. Aside from basic details which vary for each celebrity, the rest of the “death hoax” article is duplicated verbatim.

Below are screen shots of the “death hoax” articles for Nicolas Cage, Hillary Clinton, and Jim Carrey.



Media Fooled

Some legitimate news sites have cited phony stories by Mediamass, not realizing they were fake. Below are some examples of real news outlets which have been fooled by Mediamass, often without sourcing them.

  • Travelers Today. This article debunks a Bill Cosby death hoax, dated June 6, 2013 and written by Karen Fredrickson. It reprints – almost verbatim – the death hoax seen in the examples above, but does not cite Mediamass as a source.
  • India Today. This article debunks a Lady Gaga death hoax. It is dated May 27, 2013 and also closely mirrors the Mediamass article without credit.
  • International Business Times. After a real death hoax for Jackie Chan circulated online, this post apparently used the phony Mediamass story to debunk the rumor. Mediamass was not cited, and the article was later removed.
  • Epoch Times. In an article about numerous celebrity death hoaxes, this article does source Mediamass – but as a legitimate news source – and uses the phony “rep” statement in regards to an Eddie Murphy death hoax.
  • Huffington Post. In this story about Ashley Judd, a fake Mediamass story regarding nude photos (which exists for every celebrity on the site) is linked as if it were a legitimate source.
  • Gloucestershire Echo. In a report debunking rumors about the death of Macaulay Culkin, this report appears to be completely drawn from the Mediamass report. Not only were they fooled, but they didn’t give credit.

“Death Hoax” Hoax

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An article which exists for all celebrities on Mediamass claims that reports of celebrity’s death are merely a hoax. In a few high-profile cases, these articles have confused fans when a celebrity actually passes away. Recent celebrity deaths such as J.J. Cale and James Gandolfini were initially rebutted by fans who posted “death hoax” articles by Mediamass.

On July 8, 2012, Ernest Borgnine passed away at the age of 95. Some readers may have been confused by his “death hoax” article posted on Mediamass.

On October 27, 2013, news of the death of Lou Reed was “refuted” by readers who found the fake “death hoax” article posted by Mediamass – unaware that it was not a true news story. See our full Lou Reed “death hoax” story here.

On November 30, 2013, immediately following reports of the death of actor Paul Walker, some readers posted the Mediamass “death hoax” article, believing the actor’s death was a hoax. Mediamass eventually changed the story. See the full Paul Walker “death hoax” story here.

On February 2, 2014, as news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman broke, some fans called the reports a hoax based on the Mediamass report, while others marveled at the “coincidence” that a death hoax occurred days before the actor’s death. The only evidence of a death hoax, however, was the fake Mediamass article. See the full Philip Seymour Hoffman death hoax report here.

On February 24, 2014, when news that Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters fame had passed away, fans looking for verification ran across the fake Mediamass article and shared it, claiming reports of Ramis’ death were a hoax.

Why do they do it? AKA “Media Fooled, Part 2″

One may wonder why such a website would exist at all. Although Mediamass claims to exist to somehow prove that journalism standards have waned in recent years, their website fits the model of poor “satire” published to gain free back links, gain popularity, and eventually increase advertising revenue.

By the end of 2013, some writers had begun to catch on to Mediamass.  In their attempts to “debunk” the fake site, however, these well-intended writers often include links to Mediamass in their articles. This practice falls into the hands of Mediamass, which gains free backlinks whenever an article is “debunked.” We encourage any writers seeking to debunk a bogus Mediamass article to include “nofollow” links, or no links at all.

Bottom Line is a website which mass-produces fake stories in the name of humor. It appears that the joke is on those legitimate news websites which have unknowingly been fooled into citing fake articles by Mediamass and giving them free back links in return.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned here is that those attempting to present legitimate news reports must exercise caution with their choice of sources in this age of hoaxes, rumors, and fake news sites such as

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23 Comments on Fake News That Fooled Real News

  1. Alison Howard // March 29, 2015 at 11:12 am // Reply

    I was looking at a photo of Eric Singer on Google Images it was Media Mass the headline says “Eric Singer Dead 2015″: Kiss Drummer killed by internet death hoax it also said Eric Singer engaged Eric Singer:Secretly married Eric Singer to be a dad Eric Singer single again it upset lots of Kiss fans myself included why does this website think it is funny to publish things about celebrities I find it appalling disgusting evil vile nasty not funny how can people get this website banned from Google this article about Eric Singer was not funny it made me really angry these people who work for this website should be sacked and made to say sorry to Eric Singer and other celebrities that they have falsely reported about I hope that this website gets banned from Google

  2. And now, they’re “reporting” that Lauren Bacall’s death is a hoax.

  3. Yes I agree, the site stinks! What’s the purpose on making fun out of us the reader who in our most naive spirit we use the web to get reliable information, I don’t know how they get adds too, Thx

    • The purpose of making fun of you is so you stop being an idiot and believing everything you read while missing obvious signs of bs.

      In all fairness though, they aren’t just making fun of you and other people who do this. They are ALSO making fun of of the major media outlets who are exposing that they pretty much gave up on journalism AGES ago and just reprint what they read somewhere else.

  4. I thought it was pretty funny that actor Ian McShane was “the highest paid actor in the world” in 2013, as were Karl Urban and Mark Harmon. They each made 82 million dollars this year, thanks to their “smart stock investments, substantial property holdings, and lucrative endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics…”

    Lol. Stop whining about this comical site. Just learn from it. Don’t trust anything you read without verifying it.

    • It’s not comical when fans of Lou Reed or Paul Walker hear initial death reports, and are comforted by the “death hoax” articles on this site – only to find out the person did in fact die. The Onion is comical. Mediamass seems more like blanket SEO cloaked in the name of satire.

  5. At first I thought it was stupid and assinine (and it really kinda is) but now I think I get it. They’re trying to teach people to actually vet their sources, which is a crucial step far too few people follow, by triggering many fake news stories on different sites over time. Think about it – if they wanted to get ‘The Onion’ level of exposure and ad revenue, why limit themselves to such boring, workaday stories? “So-and-so’s dog is sick.” “So-and-so’s rumored to be pregnant.” Whereas when The Onion runs something like “Planned Parenthood to open super-sized ‘Abortionplex’ with drive-thru” and it spreads like wildfire as people get offended and pass it on.

    I think whoever is behind Mediamass doesn’t want to accidentally start a story with real world political or economic consequences. Restricting their site to banal celebrity gossip can still illuminate the cracks in our information systems without doing more than annoying some publicists.

    I still think the site’s boring, but maybe it’s a net positive. Reminds me of Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday, only that was a fun read.

    • I find it to be rather fascinating. An automated website with computer-generated content which allows the general media to display its idiocy through unresearched links and quotations. It’s essentially an automated irony-generating machine — the quintessence of 21st Century postmodernism. Culture-jamming at a core level.

      What the site’s designers intended to create is irrelevant. The result is an interesting social commentary.

  6. I am sick of mediamass. They always come up when I search est. net worth of various folks. Everyone I’ve looked up has a “Fatburger” Chain in Washington State, a Signature Vodka, A Clothing Line and a Signature Scent. NOWHERE is there a statement clearly displayed that says that the information is comedic or satirical, BUT THERE ARE PLENTY OF ADS, which means that if you are as tired as I am of an unregulated internet where this stuff can run rampant, then send an email to the FTC and point out that they are advertising in false and misleading ways, since they draw us to the site then lie, and don’t say it’s a lie. I ain’t laughing, and I’m getting really tired of internet companies making millions in fraudulent ways. HOW ABOUT YOU ¿?¿

    • Purely speculation here, but it doesn’t seem as though they are truly about creating satire as much as they are about generating traffic.

      • Kamilla Vaski // May 24, 2014 at 11:07 pm // Reply

        I came upon it today. It is boring and repetitive, and not real satire, unlike The Onion for example, and appears to exist only in order to take in advertising revenue for its makers.

  7. criticalstinker // October 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm // Reply


    People like RosieRed are the exact reason why the successful existence of sites like is actually pretty hilarious.

    And yes, as a result of their SEO link-baiting, every time someone like her who so deeply cares about how Brad and Jen are doing clicks on their links, some dude somewhere is laughing his ass off while sitting on a pile of money.

    Sometimes it is fun to play tricks on stupid people. Who’da thunk you could get rich doing it too?

  8. Some the stories might be trie jerez on the cher story. And the split rumor about her and hayden splitting again. rachel really need a false story the way her carrera is going in américa. O believe the splitting rumor Not thread inés about her having a child.

  9. After trying to look up the latest news on a celebrity, I realised, after a very short while, that the whole thing was fake … but I admit it had me fooled at first, especially when I read that he had split from his long-term partner. It was not a pleasant experience as I was truly shocked for a few seconds as it seemed so unlikely. The whole thing was made more real by the comments made by so-called ‘readers’ who also expressed shock, sympathy etc. I’m all for spoofs – many of which are very funny – but this is just a form of VERY sick humour clearly designed to confuse and distress proper loyal fans (not the ones who only search the net for ‘gossip/dirt’. And not to mention such things causing embarrassment & distress to the names & families of those involved.) The whole point of a spoof is to make it pretty obvious, hence the humour – but this is just done to confuse and, at the very least, annoy. For God’s sake get your kicks elsewhere whoever did this or, preferably, use any talent (?) you may have to write something genuinely funny or useful!! This sort of stuff really should be pulled from the net, full stop.

  10. I know the guy who did it… For sure it’s not humor for Olive but just a SEO way to earn money with Google Adsense. By the way, you can report this site to Google Adsense (Report policy violation) saying “The site violates AdSense program policies in other ways / infringes on the legal rights of others” by folowing the link “AdChoices” on every ads.

    • Also seems like a textbook breach of “Do not include deceptive or manipulative content or construction to improve your site’s search engine ranking”.

      I could tolerate silly randomly-generated stories about fluff, but “[celebrity name] death hoax in [current month], not actually dead” is breathtakingly cynical.

  11. Quote: “Huffington Post. In this article about Ashley Judd, a fake Mediamass story regarding nude photos (which exists for every celebrity on the site) is linked as if it were a legitimate source.”

    Have you read the Mediamass fake story quoted by the Huffington Post? It’s really a shame that a main stream media quotes an article as a real source when a quick glimpse makes obvious it is a fake. And I don’t mention the Warning displayed on every pages, but the contents. The author clearly did not read the article she quotes.
    What a shame !
    Mediamass proves its point here.

    • It’s a good point to be made, and no one here will complain about HuffPost embarrassing itself when posting such flimsy “research.” To the casual reader, however, the point of Mediamass mostly lost and these fake articles really just seem like a nuisance.

  12. Quote: “That does appear to be the joke, but many people seeking information who find these articles don’t seem to find the joke very funny.”
    … because they are a part of the joke.
    The purpose is to mock mass media which are mass production AND mass consumption.

  13. As I understood the project, the humorous part is not in the article contents, but in the mass production:
    “The concept is to select the most typical, representative and recurrent articles across Gossip magazines and to make them available for all the celebrities in our database.” (Quote)

    To point out “Sensationalism, lack of verification of information, ethics and standards issues” (Quote)

    And the fact that some real media are fooled prooves the point! They give credit to an article from an unknow source (Mediamass is nothing) with a red line saying “This story seems to be false” pointing to a page saying “The ‘People’ section is a humorous parody of Gossip magazines, all stories are obviously not true.”

    I don’t know how many medias felt for it but I think it’s well done!

    • That does appear to be the joke, but many people seeking information who find these articles don’t seem to find the joke very funny.

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