A screenshot of the image used in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's death hoax.

Filipino connection suspected in string of celebrity death hoaxes

What does Vic Sotto have in common with Mr. Bean and The Rock?

Rumors of their deaths have been greatly exaggerated.

All three celebrities have been subjects of death hoaxes, which based on the analysis of a web developer, could be traced to the Philippines.

Using a digital fingerprinting tool, Maarten Schenk, owner of the web application Trendolizer, managed to tie several fake news sites which published the fake death of American actor and professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to a Filipino site propagating fake news.

Reports circulated on social media on Aug. 25 about Johnson’s fake death after a stunt with his body double supposedly went awry. The hoax has since been disproven. (See: Fake News: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson DID NOT Die After Failed Stunt With Double)

Schenk, who is based in Belgium, found similarities in the operation of the Johnson death hoax with an earlier celebrity death hoax, targeting Rowan Atkinson.

Atkinson is a British actor popularly known for his television character Mr. Bean.

A screenshot of the image used in Rowan Atkinson's death hoax, used to debunk the fake news.

Fake news of his death first circulated in 2016, and trended again on March and July this year. (See: Fake News: 'Mr. Bean. (Rowan Atkinson)' Did NOT Die at 62 After Crashing His Car On Attempt Perfecting A Stunt)

Schenk, using Trendolizer to monitor trending links online, was able to track the sites where the Atkinson death hoax originated.

He found that one of the sites shared an internet protocol address with another containing a hoax video on the death of Filipino comedian Vic Sotto.

The Sotto death hoax went viral in 2014.

Read Schenk’s analysis here: Technical Analysis Of The Great Rowan Atkinson Death Hoax Of March 18, 2017

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative.)

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