By Lamia Estatie BBC News
A hoax conspiracy theory that Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne is dead has resurfaced on the 15th anniversary of the release of her hit single Complicated.
A Twitter user who claims to be a 17-year-old high school student and has more than 13,000 followers detailed the claim in a thread which has since been liked and retweeted nearly a quarter-of-a-million times in total.
In the thread, they allege that the singer took her own life in late 2003 after her grandfather’s death.
The theory says because her supposed “death” occurred at the peak of her career, Ms Lavigne’s record company hired a lookalike known as Melissa Vandella to impersonate her. Vandella was reportedly recruited beforehand to pose as the Canadian singer for paparazzi, the theory continues.
This death hoax has surfaced several times in the last few years. Ms Lavigne was also the victim of another rumour, which said that she’d been killed in a snowboarding accident.
Those who support the theory on Twitter back their claim with inconsistencies over the years in the appearance of the star’s skin, jawline, eye corners and fashion style as well as handwriting. Others cite a promo picture of the singer with the word Melissa written on her hand.
A Brazilian blog, Avril Esta Morta (Avril is Dead), speculated several years back about the singer’s death, pointing out what it said were inconsistencies in her skin. Images used on the blog have repeatedly appeared online to both support and dispute the claim.
The blog was set up to “prove how easy it is to start a big internet conspiracy theory”, according to BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Broderick whose reporting on the blog in 2015 accidentally spread the rumour.
Ms Lavigne is active on social media platforms and her latest tweet on 14 May is a snap of herself and her mother on the occasion of Mother’s Day in the US and Canada. Some of the top responses to her tweet were: “Happy Mother’s Day, Melissa” and “Melissa, it’s OK. We’re here for you.”
The singer, who contracted Lyme disease in 2013, said that period was the “worst time of her life”.
Ms Lavigne’s name has been mentioned hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter in connection with this latest death conspiracy claim.
One user said her recent ad for a snack bar was the giveaway: “Avril Lavigne would never promote a Slim Secret bar. The jig is up Melissa.”
Others used the hashtag #NotMyAvril, with one accompanying meme saying: “This is a case for the FBI.”
But others shot down the claims, with Twitter user @EAZ0629 saying the supposed change in handwriting didn’t constitute evidence “because I change my handwriting every year”.
And some said they would not put the rumours to rest until Avril “posts a picture of her and her lookalike together”.