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Michael Jackson hoax was 'experiment,' broadcaster says

  • Story Highlights
  • Video purportedly showed Michael Jackson hopping out of a coroner's van
  • RTL spokesperson: Video made to show how easy it is to spread rumors online
  • 880,000 people clicked on the most popular version of the video on YouTube
  • RTL: Video intended to tell people not to take information at face value
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A hoax video purporting to show Michael Jackson hopping out of a coroner's van alive was produced by a German television station as an experiment, the broadcaster told CNN Monday.

Michael Jackson was found dead on June 25. He had been preparing for a comeback.

Michael Jackson was found dead on June 25. He had been preparing for a comeback.

It was made to show how easy it is to spread rumors online, said Heike Schultz, a spokeswoman for RTL, the leading private broadcaster in Germany.

"We sent out a press release before we did the video to alert everyone that it was fake, but once posted it spread really fast," she said.

More than 880,000 people have clicked on the most popular version of the video on YouTube, posted by a user using the name "michaeljacksonhoax" under the title "Michael Jackson alive?! Seen coming out of coroner's van!" Nearly 3,600 people have commented on the video.

"All the moves, his posture, the stepping out of the van, looks like MJ. He steps out very cautious, like a moonwalk. Also the slowly walking is just like Michael did," one user wrote.

"I really hope he's still alive....I could never forgive him for scaring me like that, but I could never hate him... :)," another said. Video Watch video of the hoax »

Not everyone was fooled.

"I would forgive Michael for anything because he is so super sexy but seriously guys he has passed," one user wrote. "MJ has passed so leave him alone this movie is fake. R.I.P. Michael I love and miss u."

A second version of the video, posted and annotated by "MUZIKfactory2" to show inconsistencies, has been seen more than 329,000 times. Both versions were posted on August 25.

RTL produced the video for its daily magazine "Explosive" to tell people not to take information at face value, the station's representative said.

"This was so obviously fake, in the case of Michael Jackson, it just was not possible," Schultz said.

According to Schultz, some viewers have been happy that the magazine showed them how easy it was to fake information online. Others who were Michael Jackson fans have told RTL that this was the wrong topic to do this kind of experiment on.

"It was not a bad thing, since it was so obviously a fake. But it is now in our poison wardrobe and it won't be revived again," Schultz said.

RTL said it removed the video from the Internet, but it can still be seen on YouTube.

News of Jackson's death on June 25 sparked something of a feeding frenzy on the Web, as many news Web sites struggled to cope with the sheer volume of traffic.

With that came rumors that dragged in other celebrities completely unconnected to the "King of Pop's" death.

One Wikipedia prankster wrote that Jackson had been "savagely murdered" by his brother Tito, who had strangled him "with a microphone cord." Soon rumors spread online that movie star Jeff Goldblum had fallen from the Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand while filming his latest movie.

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On several search engines, "Jeff Goldblum" soon became the only non-Jackson-related term to crop up in the top 10. The rumors forced Goldblum's publicist to issue a statement to media outlets, saying: "Reports that Jeff Goldblum has passed away are completely untrue. He is fine and in Los Angeles."

At the same time, Harrison Ford was also rumored to have fallen from a yacht off the south of France.

CNN's Per Nyberg in London, England and Frederik Pleitgen in Berlin, Germany, contributed to this report.

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