Sunnyvale, CA — An area gay man is recovering in hospital after suffering severe angina brought on by a distressing link that suggested Oscar-winning actress and perennial gay icon Cher had died.
Philip Pham, 39, was perusing his Facebook account when the link appeared on his screen announcing: “Cher leaves us at 69!.”
Pham said he “literally froze in place” at the sight of those very words.
“I started hyperventilating and feeling these chest pains which progressively got worse as I started thinking that I’ll never get to see her perform ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ in concert ever again,” Pham said.
Pham’s roommate Harry Wang said he found the lifelong Cher fan slouched in front of his computer “looking a hot Asian mess” and muttering something about Cher sleeping with the angels.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. I thought he just got overly excited over Cher’s latest wig or something, but he looked real’ bad, so I rushed him to the El Camino ER,” said Wang.
As it turned out, Cher did not in fact die. Pham just became a victim of what is widely known on the Internet as “click-baiting,” the unscrupulous practice of misrepresenting or manipulating facts in order to generate web site traffic. The link to the Cher article actually led to a web site that advertises beauty supplies from Asia geared towards aging women.
“I was so furious after I found out. I’m actually thinking of suing Facebook for subjecting me to this. Honestly, I could have died,” said Pham. “They should totally make it illegal.”
In 2014, Facebook made modifications to its news feed algorithms to better filter out click-baiting posts after a survey of its users found out that 80% of the time people said that they preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before clicking through. The crackdown on click-baiting clearly hasn’t been very successful as the practice continues unabated.