Tragedy, sympathy and broken hearts: 10 social media hoaxes

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2013 4:22 p.m. MST

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In a story filled with tragedy and miracles, Dana Dirr, a pregnant trauma surgeon and mother of a cancer-stricken 5-year-old boy named Eli, was hit head-on by a semi and clung to life just long enough to give birth to the Dirr's eleventh child.

Due to the scope of the tragedy surrounding Dana's death, readers started digging into the claims only to discover that the entire family was nothing more than a hoax, Gawker reported. Pictures of the Dirr children were stolen from blogs and Flickr accounts from people living in South Africa, New York and Germany.

In addition to creating an imaginary family, 22-year-old Emily Dirr — the real Dirr behind the fiction — also told the story of Eli Dirr, who was diagnosed with cancer. His "parents" created the Warrior Eli Facebook page and set up pages on CaringBridge and the Alex's Lemonade Stand charity. The Dirrs also sent out hundreds of Warrior Eli wristbands and drawings from "Eli."

After the hoax was uncovered, the Dirrs began vanishing from the Internet. Pages were deactivated, Facebook accounts were locked and profiles on sites like Photobucket and Myspace were scrubbed clean. At least 70 profiles tied to the Dirrs also disappeared, the warriorelihoax blog reported.

Emily Dirr posted an apology saying, "This all started 11 years ago when I was a bored 11-year-old kid looking for an escape from the pain and heartache I saw in my own family. It started almost as a fiction writing, but the more time I spent escaping to it, the more 'real' it became. I am so sorry it hurt so many real families, and so many people out there."
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