Kate Middleton conspiracy theories ‘fuelled by China, Russia and Iran’ after cancer diagnosis

Whitehall officials said to be concerned over possible involvement of China, Russia and Iran in growing online rumours

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 25 March 2024 07:39 GMT
Related: Princess Kate announces cancer diagnosis

The government is reportedly concerned that Britain’s adversaries are deliberately fuelling disinformation about the Princess of Wales to "destabilise the nation".

Kate’s absence from the public eye following planned surgery in January became a source of online rumours, speculation and conspiracy theories until the princess revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer in a personal and moving video message.

The 42-year-old princess said she needed to recover from surgery before she could start “preventative chemotherapy”, as advised by her medical team. The news is another cruel blow to the royal family with King Charles III and the future queen both fighting cancer at the same time.

While Kate’s video message has been met with an outpouring of public sympathy, unfounded conspiracies have continued to circulate about both the truthfulness of the princess’s announcement and cancer itself, with commentators online questioning the efficacy of chemotherapy or blaming Kate’s diagnosis on Covid-19 vaccines.

There are now growing concerns among Whitehall officials about the possible involvement of state adversaries like China, Russia and Iran in the rise of conspiracy theories on social media surrounding the princess's health, The Telegraph reported.

“Part of the modus operandi of hostile states is to destabilise things – whether that is undermining the legitimacy of our elections or other institutions," an unnamed Whitehall source told the newspaper.

Kate Middleton announces cancer diagnosis (Independent TV)

Alleged Chinese interference in British democracy, just months ahead of an expected general election, is to be raised in parliament on Monday by deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden.

Downing Street is said to be preparing fresh sanctions on Chinese individuals involved in state-backed interference in Britain’s democratic processes, including a cyberattack that saw the personal details of millions of voters accessed.

Ministers were due to set out details on Monday of hacking incidents targeting the Electoral Commission as well as 43 people including MPs and peers.

The government last year launched a taskforce to protect the democratic integrity of the UK from threats of foreign interference, with that remit including tackling the spread of disinformation on social media.

“Countering this is right at the heart of the work of the taskforce,” The Telegraph quoted a government source as saying.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak on Friday led the condemnation of social media trolls for targeting the princess over her disappearance from the public eye.

"In recent weeks she has been subjected to intense scrutiny and has been unfairly treated by certain sections of the media around the world and on social media," Mr Sunak said in a statement on X.

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said the princess has been "revictimised by being blamed for not having come out immediately".

“When you’ve got a young lady, the Princess of Wales, who has suffered a medical emergency, you see people flooding in with conspiracy theories, you see them being amplified on social media platforms and pushed to millions and millions of people,” he told the BBC.

“I think it’s the inhumanity of the way that social media has made us behave, forcing people to talk about things that can be very deeply personal.

“And also seeing of course the impact of that on our society, how quickly it was picked up by millions of people, and how much it’s done damage to the Royal family themselves.”

Former royal adviser Paddy Harverson said the speculation and pressure around the princess's health had been the "worst I've ever seen".

Last week the British Embassy in Ukraine was forced to deny rumours that the King had died after Kremlin-approved state media channels, some with millions of followers on social media, began spreading the fake news.

The first false claims appeared on Telegram, when a photoshopped statement adorned with the Buckingham Palace logo read: “The following announcement is made by royal communications. The King passed away unexpectedly yesterday afternoon.”

"We would like to inform you that the news about the death of King Charles III is fake," the embassy clarified in a social media post.

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