Lifelong Star Trek fans and by extension the rest of the internet got a serious scare when, just a day before his 87th birthday, it was falsely reported that William Shatner had died recently. Someone on Twitter let him know about the seemingly unintentional hoax that was started when a company called Avocet Retail Sales sponsored an ad on Facebook messenger that claimed the Star Trek actor had died.
Shatner was understandably upset about the ad. Soon after being alerted, Shatner tweeted at Facebook asking how an ad featuring a hoax message about his death was able to be approved for the messenger app.
Rob Leathern, Facebook's director of product management, responded to Shatner's tweet, letting him know the ad had been removed. "Thank you. I’m not planning on dying so please continue to block those kinds of ads," Shatner replied.
Thank you. I’m not planning on dying so please continue to block those kinds of ads. https://t.co/9f3k3uN5z4— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) March 21, 2018
But we're left wondering how this happened in the first place. While celebrity death hoaxes are nothing new on the internet, seeing the news of an actor's supposed death in an ad lends the hoax some credibility. This isn't even the first time in recent memory an app has come under fire for letting ads slip through the cracks that never should have been approved — just last week, Snapchat was criticized for approving an ad that asked users, "Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?" The ad was criticized for allegedly making light of domestic violence, as users wondered if it was in reference to the time Brown assaulted Rihanna in 2009.
Despite being an octogenarian, Shatner has shown no signs of slowing down lately. He currently has three different projects in postproduction, according to IMDb, including his William Shatner War Chronicles, which he writes, produces and directs. He's also a regular appearing as himself on the ABC reality adventure series Better Late Than Never.
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