Russia disinformation group blamed for spread of vile Kate social media conspiracies

The Princess of Wales, Kate (PA Wire)
The Princess of Wales, Kate (PA Wire)

A Russian-based troll group may have amplified a frenzy of social media speculation about the Princess of Wales’s health, researchers believe.

Kate revealed her cancer diagnosis in a public video message last week after rampant online speculation, saying she was expected to make a recovery and was growing stronger every day.

Speaking to the BBC, experts said a network of actors based in Russia may have had a hand in fanning the flames of the rumours, which often aired wild and speculative theories about the Princess’s health and the relationship between her and the Prince of Wales.

Martin Innes, director of the Security, Crime and Intelligence Innovation Institute at Cardiff University, told the broadcaster his researchers had found systematic attempts to intensify the wave of rumours, linking the efforts to a Russian disinformation group.

Professor Innes said the group, which is not a state entity, was linked to individuals who had been recently sanctioned in the US over ‘trolling’.

“Their messaging around Kate appears wrapped up in their ongoing campaigns to attack France's reputation, promote the integrity of the Russian elections, and denigrate Ukraine as part of the wider war effort," he said.

He said these operatives would be seen by the Kremlin as "political technologists,” and that they would “hijack” existing rumours as it made them harder to track than starting their own misinformation.

Many of the accounts spreading Catherine conspiracy theories were newly created this month, he said, feeding off a “master" account, and amplifying its content.

Professor Innes said the accounts used identical phrases, such as “why do these big media channels want to make us believe these are Kate and William?”, hinting at them being organised.

The Princess of Wales will not make public appearances after starting a course of preventive chemotherapy.

Post-operative tests following her major abdominal surgery showed she had cancer.

However, conspiracy theories have continued to be shared on social media, despite Kate movingly explaining how she and her family have been having to process her diagnosis.

Some falsely claimed her video was AI-generated with a few even going as far as to doctor Kate’s message to look as if it was coming from Princess Diana or Meghan Markle, to try and prove how easy it would be to alter it.

In a statement issued on Saturday night, Kensington Palace said the Prince and Princess of Wales were “enormously touched” and “extremely moved” by the public’s warmth and support following Kate’s announcement.