Washington (AFP) – Following the news of Princess Catherine of Wales’s cancer diagnosis, an unsettling wave of conspiracy theories inundated social media platforms, with some even suggesting that she was secretly deceased. Despite the somber revelation, the barrage of unfounded rumors continues to circulate.

Kate Middleton, 42, garnered global sympathy after she shared a video message disclosing her preventative chemotherapy treatment. This revelation aimed to quash the slew of baseless claims that emerged during her prolonged absence from public view.

The alteration of an official royal photograph released by the palace, coupled with the entrenched culture of secrecy within the British monarchy, played a significant role in fueling online speculation. The prevalence of evidence-free theories on social media, including posts alleging the princess’s demise using skull emojis or rumors of her being in a coma, underscores the prevailing climate of information chaos in the era of artificial intelligence and misinformation, distorting public perception of reality.

The situation escalated when British authorities were prompted to investigate reports of an unauthorized attempt to access her medical records, marking a disturbing turn of events in response to the online conjectures.

Writer Helen Lewis highlighted the pressure on Kate to release the statement in light of the alternative being widespread gossip and conspiracy theories. The Daily Mail also condemned the online trolls, questioning their feelings in the wake of the news.

Online platforms saw claims that Kate’s video message was a manipulated deepfake, sparking debates about the authenticity of the footage. Misinformation about cancer and chemotherapy further complicated the narrative, with some erroneously downplaying the severity of the disease.

The continuous proliferation of unfounded theories points to a broader issue of public distrust in institutions and traditional media, fostering an environment where conspiracy theories find fertile ground.

The controversy surrounding Kate has been amplified by her withdrawal from public life and prior incidents, like editing a family portrait and unverified claims of a body double replacement. Researchers emphasize the importance of addressing public skepticism and mitigating misinformation in an information-saturated digital age.