April 17, 2024

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Conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton persist despite cancer revelations

Conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton persist despite cancer revelations

Many on X claimed that the video message sent by Kate Middleton was an AI-powered deepfake


The revelation that Britain's Princess Catherine, Princess of Wales, had cancer sparked a swift backlash amid a torrent of sensationalized speculation on social media about her health, including one that suggested she had secretly died. But the grim news hasn't stopped the seemingly endless wave of conspiracy theories.

Kate Middleton (42 years old) received a wave of global sympathy after her video message on Friday revealed that she was undergoing preventive chemotherapy, seeking to put an end to the spiral of baseless allegations that were circulating amid her absence from public life for months.

The manipulation of the royal image released by the palace to the media, combined with the culture of secrecy in the British monarchy, has sparked much speculation online.

But the spread of evidence-free theories on social media — including emoji-filled posts claiming the princess is dead or in an induced coma — illustrates the new normal of information chaos in the age of artificial intelligence and misinformation that has distorted public opinion. Understanding reality.

This speculation took a serious turn last week when British police were asked to investigate in a bid to access her confidential medical records.

“Kate was literally bullied by this statement,” writer Helen Lewis wrote in The Atlantic.

“The alternative — a wildfire of gossip and conspiracy theories — was worse.”

The British newspaper “Daily Mail” also criticized the tabloid, asking: “How do all these vile internet trolls feel now?”

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If social media posts are to be believed, she's not too sorry.

“Cruel crooks”

Many on X, previously Twitter, and TikTok claimed that Kate Middleton's video message was an AI-powered deepfake.

Some users posted slow-motion versions of the video to support the baseless claim that it had been digitally manipulated, wondering why nothing in the background – a leaf or blade of grass – was moving.

Others examined her facial movements and speculated why the dimple did not appear, as seen in the previous photos.

“Sorry House of Windsor, Kate Middleton (and) old media – I'm still not buying what you're selling,” one post on X read.

“Actually, I'm not sorry – you've all read 'The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf', haven't you?”

Then there was misinformation about the cancer itself, with publications falsely claiming the disease was not fatal while comparing chemotherapy to “poison.”

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Many of them jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon, baselessly linking Kate's diagnosis to “turbo cancer,” a myth associated with Covid-19 vaccines that has been repeatedly debunked.

“There is no evidence to support the turbo cancer lie,” said Timothy Caulfield, a misinformation expert from the University of Alberta in Canada.

He added that conspiracy theorists “are cruel fraudsters who peddle fear and misinformation.”

“seed of doubt”

The proliferation of wild theories highlights how facts are increasingly under scrutiny in an online landscape rife with misinformation, an issue exacerbated by the public's distrust of institutions and traditional media.

The same distrust has corrupted online conversations about serious issues, including elections, climate and health care, researchers say.

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“People don't trust what they see and read,” Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, told AFP.

“Once the seed of doubt is planted, and people lose trust, conspiracy theories are able to gain more attention.”

Rumors surrounding Kate Middleton have escalated since she withdrew from public life after attending a church mass on Christmas Day and undergoing abdominal surgery in January.

Conspiracy theories exploded after the princess admitted to editing a family photo on the occasion of Mother's Day, a move that prompted news agencies including Agence France-Presse to withdraw it.

Conspiracy theorists fell into a new hole when a subsequent video emerged showing Kate wandering around the market with her husband, baselessly asserting that she had been replaced by a body double.

“When it comes to an institution as old and opaque as the royal family, the lack of public trust creates an appetite for a lot of investigation,” Danajal Young of the University of Delaware told AFP.

Social media hashtags about the princess have gained so much popularity that many users have begun using them to promote unrelated posts about topics that receive much less attention, including human rights abuses in India and the Middle East.

What made the madness worse, researchers say, was the culture of royal secrecy and the palace's failed public relations strategy.

“To be honest, the palace could have nipped the situation in the bud much earlier,” Douglas said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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