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Justin Bieber leads in Twitter celebrity death rumors

7:51 PM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) On Twitter, nobody is more dead than Justin Bieber.

Hold your hashtags, Beliebers. The fact is, Justin Bieber is not dead, at least not literally. But he is the musician most often reported to be dead, according to a study of death rumors on Twitter.

The pop superstar's death is falsely reported roughly every two weeks, according to Synthesio, a global social media and analysis company.

Synthesio, which monitors social engagement in 100 countries and 50 languages, tracked #RIP celebrity rumor tweets that had been retweeted more than 500 times. The top reason cited for Bieber's death was a drug overdose, with crashing his Ferrari coming in a close second.

Second on the dead-but-not-dead list was Zayn Malik of One Direction. Rihanna and Chris Brown also were regularly reported deceased in the past three months.

"Rumors of major celebrity deaths are a constant feature of Twitter," Catriona Oldershaw, UK managing director of Synthesio, said in a statement. "But what is interesting about Justin Bieber is how prevalent and regular the reports are. The volume of tweets is also increasing, with the latest rumor spread by 2,600 users in one day.

"Reports of Zayn Malik's demise are particularly strange as he is the only member of One D who is a regular subject of these rumors," Oldershaw said. "It may be because Zayn is the only band member who is not a regular tweeter, meaning that rumors about him are harder to dispel quickly.

"There are a number of reasons these rumors spread. In Justin and Zayn's case, their young and fanatical fan base is probably one of the major factors, with vocal users quick to pass on information without fact-checking. In terms of where the rumors come from in the first place, wider research indicates that it's often rival fans starting RIP rumors as a form of trolling."

Twitter certainly adds velocity and breadth to the process, but it's not a new phenomenon. Paul McCartney was a famous victim of death rumors. On the other hand, Elvis Presley laundromat sightings were not uncommon after the King's actual death in 1977.

Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

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