Home World “Where is #katemiddleton?” : Theories about Kate’s whereabouts go global

“Where is #katemiddleton?” : Theories about Kate’s whereabouts go global

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 “Where is #katemiddleton?” : Theories about Kate's whereabouts go global

WHen the Sun published images of the Prince and Princess of Wales shopping at a farm store this weekend, he said he was doing so “in a bid to end weeks of online speculation which saw wild theories of the Kate conspiracy spreading unchecked.

If that was the goal, it certainly didn’t work. “Do you think it’s Kate Middleton?” » is the legend of a TikTok video which has been viewed 3.5 million times. “Not Kate. Nooo,” read one of the nearly 2,000 comments. “I’m not even a big fan of the royal family and I knew it wasn’t her,” someone said another. video, titled: “Where is #katemiddleton? Because it’s not here! (sic)”, has 1.1 million views.

Ten days after Kensington Palace released a photo of Catherine with her children – which it was later forced to admit had been altered – the enormous scale of the conspiracies it fueled and generated is becoming clear.

The princess’s whereabouts and the wildest theories attached to it have been the subject of frenzied speculation online, as data seen by the Guardian illustrates. According to BrandMentions, a company that monitors the spread of hashtags and keywords online, over the past seven days, the hashtags #whereiskate #katebodydouble and #katemiddleton have been used on social media accounts and web pages with a total reach of 400 million people, according to measurements. by factors such as account followers.

The hashtags were mentioned 5,400 times, with Instagram accounting for more than eight out of 10 mentions, followed by TikTok, which accounted for 5% of mentions. Posts with these hashtags were shared 2.3 million times and liked 2.2 million times.

The speculation has been truly global, with the biggest reach of the three hashtags on Facebook coming from the page of news magazine India Today, while one of the biggest reaches on Instagram is from the account of Diario Libre, a newspaper of the Dominican Republic, which has 1.8 million followers.

An example of how fake news originates and spreads is the alleged revelation of an impending royal announcement earlier this week. After rumors of death or divorce within the royal family began spreading on social media, the hashtag #royalannouncement began trending on X early Monday morning.

These rumors appear to originate from the TikTok and Instagram sites Popapologists, run by a duo who describe themselves as podcasting sisters Lauren and Chan, apparently from the United States. On March 11, the couple released the first in a now 32-part series titled “Where TF is Kate Middleton?!?!?!”, which has now been viewed 6.1 million times. The series has attracted over 20 million total views on TikTok alone.

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In a video posted on March 16, the pair said they had received “inside information” that BBC Events had “been informed to be ready at any time for a hugely important royal announcement.” “Do you know what BBC Events is responsible for covering? Weddings, coronations and funerals. Is there a world where Kate is no longer with us? The claims spread widely, with fact-checking site Snopes identifying popapologists as a key source.

This information was picked up by News International, an English-language Pakistani newspaper which writes numerous articles on the royal family. Its signature writer Wells Oster has no profile on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social networks, but has written more than 50 articles about the royal family this week.

On March 16, Oster published a news article titled “Royals signal UK media for major announcement ‘any time'”, quoting the Popapologists. Screenshots of this article then began appearing on X, where several accounts cited the report alongside reports that Charles or another member of the royal family may have died.

A verified account @UKR_Report, which has 22,600 followers, wrote: “Princess Kate of Wales, a member of the United Kingdom royal family, is estimated to have died. » Like the article about the death of King Charles that same day, which was picked up and amplified by major Russian media outlets, the article was completely false.

Daniel Jolley, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Nottingham, says that while we often talk about conspiracy theories in terms of the psychological needs they satisfy in those who support them, rumors about the Princess of Wales are particularly powerful “because they are also entertaining”. .

He added: “It feels like a movie, with you as the investigator. That detective element – ​​ooh, could they or couldn’t they? It’s quite exciting… And in the context of economic inequality, which can lead to anomie, the idea of ​​a society in ruins, we have the impression that this is possible.”

Stephan Lewandowsky, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol, whose research focuses on the spread of myths and misinformation, says: “One of the problems is that you then get into feedback loops, where the The fact that many people believe it then gives others reason to believe things. And then all of a sudden, just because everyone believes it, people will say there must be some truth to it because my neighbor believes it. It feeds on itself.

Much of the current frenzy will subside when Catherine returns to royal duties, “so in a sense it doesn’t matter, right?” Lewandowsky said. “The world will not be changed by what this person does. But the real problem is, of course, that it contributes to this blizzard of misinformation, misinformation and misleading information on social media – and that it makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between truth and lies. This is very worrying in the long term.

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