Georgetown Student’s Tragic Death Exploited by ‘Obituary Pirates’ Spreading False Murder Claims Online

Georgetown Student’s Tragic Death Exploited by ‘Obituary Pirates’ Spreading False Murder Claims Online

In the wake of a tragic accident that claimed the life of 19-year-old Georgetown student Matthew Sachman, a disturbing trend of ‘obituary piracy’ has emerged, spreading false information about his death.

Sachman died in a subway accident on New Year’s Eve in New York City, but within hours, AI-generated articles and inaccurate obituaries began circulating online, some falsely claiming he had been murdered.

Inaccurate Memorialization: Falsehoods and Misinformation

Tragic Accident: Matthew Sachman tragically fell onto the subway tracks at the East Broadway stop in Manhattan, where he was fatally struck by an oncoming train.

However, false narratives emerged online, distorting the circumstances of his death and spreading misinformation to the public.

Family’s Frustration: Sachman’s family expressed dismay at the false information circulating online, noting inaccuracies in the obituaries and misleading details about his life and death.

The proliferation of misinformation added to their grief and confusion during an already difficult time.

Exploitative Practices: The phenomenon of ‘obituary pirating’ involves scammers using AI to generate obituaries for trending names, aiming to profit from ad revenue generated by clicks on these false articles.

While each individual scam may yield minimal revenue, the collective impact can be significant for those behind the scheme.

Impact and Awareness: YouTube Misinformation and Personal Targets

YouTube Misinformation: Beyond written articles, YouTube videos in various languages perpetuated false narratives about Sachman’s death, presenting him as a famous figure or perpetuating the false murder claim.

These videos capitalized on search trends and sensationalized content to attract viewership.

Personal Targeting: Notably, journalist Deborah Vankin of the LA Times experienced a similar scam, with fake obituaries published about her while she was still alive.

The false narratives, authored by fictional personas, aimed to attract clicks and viewership, perpetuating a damaging hoax.

Response and Understanding: Identifying and Preventing Scams

Recognizing the Scheme: Experts highlighted the nature of these scams, emphasizing their goal of attracting clicks and viewership for financial gain.

Individuals and families targeted by such schemes must remain vigilant and aware of the tactics used by scammers.

Preventing Damage: Recognizing the potential harm caused by false obituaries and misinformation, efforts to prevent and mitigate such scams are essential.

Awareness, education, and proactive measures can help individuals avoid falling victim to these exploitative practices.

Phishing for Clicks: Elijah Dittersdorf, owner of Mom’s Computer in LA, noted the evolution of these scams, targeting individuals with recognizable names for the purpose of attracting clicks and views.

Understanding the motives behind such schemes is crucial for combatting their impact.

Conclusion: Combating Exploitative Practices and Protecting Against Misinformation

The case of Matthew Sachman’s false obituaries highlights the disturbing trend of ‘obituary piracy,’ where scammers exploit tragic events for financial gain.

By understanding the tactics used by scammers and raising awareness of these exploitative practices, individuals and communities can work towards preventing the spread of false information and protecting against online scams.