Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories Were Exploited by a Russian Disinformation Campaign, Experts Say

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

It seems those Kate Middleton conspiracy theories were catnip for the Russian disinformation campaign known as Doppelgänger.

According to British security experts, this “Russia-based influence operation network” attempted to sow discord about the Princess of Wales’s “disappearance” ahead of her cancer announcement on March 22. Based on a new NBC News report, researchers at the Security, Crime, and Intelligence Innovation Institute at Cardiff University in Wales claim at least 45 accounts posting about Middleton on contained Dopplegänger “hallmarks,” including pro-Russia and anti-Ukraine content on their feeds.

Still, institute director Martin Innes says it’s unlikely that Russian interlopers sparked the speculation about ’s health and whereabouts. The internet grew concerned for the princess after Kensington Palace announced in January the 42-year-old mother of three had undergone “planned abdominal surgery” and would be taking a step back from royal duties. Between vague palace updates and a confusing photo editing scandal involving Middleton, the public began to doubt the royal family’s honestly, eventually causing fringe theories to make their way into mainstream programming, including a shoutout on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

For months the internet has been cracking jokes, making memes, and forming unwieldy theories about Middleton’s whereabouts. She finally had no choice but to reveal she’s been waging a private health battle. It’s hard not to wish we’d given her the privacy she deserved.

Innes shared that #KateGate had over 14 billion TikTok views in just one month, which could not all be attributed to Russian accounts. “It’s not as though these Russia-linked accounts were driving the story; they were jumping on it,” Innes told NBC News. “It was already being framed in conspiracy terms, so foreign actors don’t need to set that frame—that’s already there to exploit.”

According to Sander van der Linden, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, #KateGate was “a perfect cocktail in terms of the things that you need for conspiracy theories to thrive.”

Okay, but it’s not like the royal family is running for reelection, so what was the goal? “It’s about destabilization,” Innes said. “It’s about undermining trust in institutions: government, monarchy, media—everything. These kinds of stories are ideal vehicles by which they do that.”


Here’s what we know for sure.

Originally Appeared on Glamour