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Bachelorette contestant Josh Seiter victim of Instagram death hoax

The former Bachelorette contestant Josh Seiter has said a death statement posted to Instagram and reported by several media sites was a hoax and the result of an account hack – a turn of events which, on the heels of a similar hoax regarding the alleged death of the social media personality Lil Tay, has prompted another round of caution at taking social media statements at face value.

On Monday, a post on Seiter’s Instagram account, attributed to his family, announced the death of the reality TV alum, who appeared during Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season in 2015 and has since worked as a model and adult film actor.

Outlets such as People, Us Weekly, the Daily Beast and NBC News reported Seiter’s death and noted his history of mental health struggles and previous suicide attempts, which he has spoken about publicly. (Others took a more credulous approach; the New York Post’s Page Six declared Seiter was “believed to be dead”.) On Tuesday, Seiter posted a video to his account in which he claimed the death announcement was a hoax.

“Hey, guys. As you can see, I am alive and well. My account was hacked,” he said. “For the last 24 hours, I’ve been trying desperately to get into it. Somebody was playing a cruel joke and mocking my mental illness and the struggles I’ve gone through with depression and suicide attempts.

“I’m sorry for all the pain they caused when they made that post,” he continued. “I just got back into my account.”

The abrupt turnaround recalled the media frenzy and confusion over the “death” earlier this month of Lil Tay, a 15-year-old former social media star who gained popularity on Instagram in 2018 as a braggadocious child rapper. In a similar fashion to Seiter, Lil Tay’s death was reported as fact in several media outlets after a statement attributed to her family appeared on her Instagram account, which had been largely dormant for several years. However, Insider reported that her father, Christopher Hope, and former manager Harry Tsang could not confirm her death, fueling online speculation of a hoax.

A day later, TMZ reported that Lil Tay was in fact alive, citing another statement from her and her brother, Jason Tian, who was also reportedly dead. “I’m completely heartbroken and struggling to even find the right words to say. It’s been a very traumatizing 24 hours,” said Lil Tay, who claimed her Instagram account “was compromised by a third party and used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors regarding me”, including about her legal name, Claire Hope. (Lil Tay said her legal name is actually Tay Tian.) Meta, which owns Instagram, confirmed the alleged hack to TMZ.

All of the confusion has raised concerns about reporting significant announcements based solely on a single social media post, especially at the complicated intersection of viral fame and mental health.

In his video statement, Seiter said he would “do all I can with my team to try to identify who was behind this but again, I apologize for the confusion. And I will update you guys as more facts come in.”

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