by Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
Usually, those false Internet rumors about a famous someone's demise end with word trickling through social media that it's a hoax, or maybe even a statement directly from the celebrity that he or she is just fine, thank you very much.
But in the case of Tuesday's rumors that astronaut Neil Armstrong had died - well, Armstrong is still dead. The part that the Internet got wrong is when. Armstrong, the first man on the moon, passed away Aug. 25, 2012.
ABC News mistakenly sent out a tweet, now deleted, that said, "Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Is Dead," according to HollywoodLife.com.
ABC was intending to tweet a piece about his passing to honor the anniversary of his death, but it was attached to a more current video, which changed the timestamp on the story to Aug. 27 and made everything appear current. The culprit was a misbehaving app, according to HollywoodLife.com. Social media eventually corrected the rumor, but not before it went viral.
Twitter followers reacted with humor.
Tweeted Collin Preciado, @treerobot42, "Really upset to learn that Neil Armstrong passed away again."
Tweeted Sean Rasmussen, @bullhunter, "Most people fear dying once, yet #NeilArmstrong has now died a 2nd time on Social Media. It must be true because it's on Twitter!"
ABC News did not respond to a request for comment.
Internet death rumors bubble up occasionally when it comes to celebrities and well-known people.
In March 2012, rumors circulated through Twitter that former Beatle Paul McCartney had died in a car accident and "RIP Paul McCartney" became a trending topic on the social media site before McCartney's status - as alive and well - was made clear. In June 2012, rumors circulated on Facebook and Twitter that pop goddess Tina Turner had passed after a site called Necropedia published an obituary.
Last August, Bill Cosby - the victim of repeated Internet rumors about his death - felt compelled to issue a statement assuring the public that, last time he checked, he was alive and OK after yet more rumors circulated that he had transitioned.
"And now ladies and gentlemen for my rebuttal," Cosby wrote. "As you well know, a dead person cannot rebuttal. Therefore, I am rebuttaling to tell you that when I heard the news I immediately began rebuttaling and went into denial. My wife has just informed me that there is no such word as rebuttaling, she says the word is rebutting. But I don't care, because I'm alive!"
Part of what's going on is the nature of modern-day news, buoyed by social media, is that it travels faster than ever, says social media expert Sherri Williams, an educator at Syracuse University, who is also studying social media in the doctoral program.
"CBS ... might run a story at the top of the hour but the correction will run at the close of the show," Williams said. "The actual traditional news story will cycle faster than the correction or retraction. I think that's part of it, and I think social media, because of how interconnected everyone is on it, makes it travel much faster."
Also, many times what happens is something quite simple - people are not paying attention to news stories much beyond the headlines, Williams said.
"People send out stuff that they don't even read," Williams said. "Online, I think people are skipping over dates and also not paying attention to the updates too."
Tuesday was somewhat of a challenging day for ABC News and social media. The Twitter hashtag #ABCreports became a trending topic after the news organization published a serious piece titled "Twerking: A Scientific Explanation." Topped by an image of Miley Cyrus and her now notorious twerking performance on the MTV Video Music Awards, the piece explained how to twerk.
Using the hashtag #ABCreports, black Twitter users generated a stream of satirical tweets pretending to offer a serious look into some aspect of black American life.
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