A viral story about a Canadian actor who died after spending $200,000 on cosmetic surgery to resemble K-pop star Jimin is an elaborate hoax using AI-generated images.
The story identified the aspiring actor as “Saint Von Colucci,” a 22-year-old who died at a South Korean hospital after undergoing his 12th surgical procedure.
The story was first published on London’s DailyMail.com, followed by dozens of media outlets and blogs, including TMZ, Yahoo! News, The Independent, and media outlets in South Korea.
According to Variety, many outlets have since updated their stories, acknowledging the hoax.
The DailyMail.com scrubbed the article from its website without mentioning the hoax.
The story originated from 2 press releases sent directly to journalists by a group called The Hype Company PR, according to Variety.
One red flag was the report that “Colucci” died at “Seoul National Hospital,” which doesn’t exist.
“All the red flags were there,” freelance journalist Raphael Rashid tweeted. “All the inconsistencies. Yet many large media orgs [sic] believed the story and wrote about it without any fact-checking.”
Riddhi Chakraborty, assistant editor at Rolling Stone India said, “The biggest clue was the press release announcing Saint Von Colucci was ‘intubated’; an artist’s management would never do this.”
She said her publication didn’t run with the story after finding no evidence to support it.
“Research, experience, and verification are key factors of responsible journalism but recently they seem to have been disregarded in favour of clickbait,” she wrote.