'Katespiracy' explodes after photo gaffe

LONDON

The image was intended to quell speculation about the whereabouts and health of British Princess Catherine of Wales, but instead her manipulated image unleashed a torrent of rumors and conspiracy theories that erupted onto the Internet.

The storm in the royal teapot erupted after Kate, 42, apologized on March 11 and admitted to editing a palace-issued photograph of her with her three children after the doctored image was removed by news agencies. , including the AFP.

The fiasco gave rise to a new whirlwind of speculation about the British royals - dubbed online as "Katespiracy" - exposing the fragility of the digital landscape in the era of rampant misinformation that has eroded trust and converted users. of social networks in amateur detectives.

Amid an information vacuum, online posts speculated whether her marriage to William, heir to the British throne, was in danger. Others wondered if Kate was recovering from an eating disorder or the cosmetic procedure known as a Brazilian butt lift, while some wondered if she was even alive.

Kensington Palace refused to release an unedited copy of the photograph, prompting social media sleuths to go down new rabbit holes.

Some observers called it the Streisand effect, royal edition: Palace secrecy and bad public relations had worsened speculation about Kate, leaving even those who normally stay away from such gossip hooked.

The doctored image appeared at a time when concerns about false or misleading visual information are at an all-time high, particularly after rapid advances in generative artificial intelligence.

"People now feel a general and mild disorientation, suspicion and mistrust," wrote the American writer Charlie Warzel in the Atlantic Monthly.

"As the real photo fiasco shows, the deepfake era doesn't need to be powered by generative AI: a rushed Photoshop will do."

The climate of distrust online has spurred new calls for transparency, even among Britons. Royal family members with a long tradition of secrecy.

"If the royals really want to model important values ​​for the nation, they should start by reviewing their approach to the media in favor of transparency (and) scrupulous honesty," said Catherine Mayer, author of the book "Charles: The Heart of a King " he wrote in X.

Kate Middleton, conspiracy theory,

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