Russian Group Linked to Princess Kate Rumors

Analysts say disinformation network helped amplify conspiracy theories about princess
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2024 6:04 AM CDT
Russian Group Linked to Princess Kate Rumors
Kate, Princess of Wales and Prince William travel in a coach following the coronation ceremony of Britain's King Charles III in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023.   (AP Photo/David Cliff, File)

While they definitely weren't the only ones spreading rumors about Princess Kate before she revealed her cancer diagnosis, researchers say a Russian disinformation group helped spread conspiracy theories online. A team at Cardiff University in Wales detected signs that a disinformation group with a history of spreading claims about Ukraine amplified Kate rumors across a range of social networks, the BBC reports. Martin Innes, an expert in digital disinformation at the university, says the group apparently intended to spread division and undermine trust in the news media and the royal family, the New York Times reports.

"It provokes an emotional reaction," Innes says. "The story was already being framed in conspiracy terms, so you can appeal to those people. And people who support the royal family get angry." The group, known as the Doppelganger network, has links to the Kremlin but isn't a state-run entity, researchers say. Some of the people involved have been sanctioned by the US in connection with a "malign influence campaign." Researchers say the group operated a network of fake accounts that shared identical posts about the princess, with one sharing what the Times calls a "clearly altered" image and asking, "Why do these big media channels want to make us believe these are Kate and William?"

Innes says that in its efforts to sow discord, the Doppelganger network tends to amplify contentious claims that already exist, which is "a much more effective approach and harder to track than starting misinformation from scratch," per the BBC. He says that beyond the political aspect, focusing on a major story like Kate's health helps the group boost traffic and follower numbers. (More Kate Middleton stories.)

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