News of Princess Kate's cancer treatment sparks outrage from those spreading conspiracies and memes online

For weeks, hundreds of people online have been spreading conspiracy theories, posting memes and posting jokes in an attempt to answer one question: Where is Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales?

Kensington Palace has repeatedly said Kate is recovering from stomach surgery scheduled for January. However, the official responses and the edited picture posted on the palace's social media channels only fueled further unfounded rumours.

But many who took part in the online frenzy expressed regret that the princess broke her silence on Friday. The 42-year-old wife of Britain's future king, Prince William, announced in a video message to the public that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.

Actress Blake Lively was the first to issue a statement online apologizing for the now-deleted Instagram post, a Photoshop joke inspired by a manipulated Mother's Day photo posted by Kensington Palace.

“I hope no one cares today, but I feel like I have to admit this,” Lively wrote in an Instagram story. “I made a funny post around the 'photoshop fails' craze and oops, that post offended me today. I'm sorry.”

That sentiment dominated much of the reaction on social media, where users said they wished the princess wasn't poking fun.

“Yes, I definitely regret laughing at all the 'catcat' memes. I wish her a speedy recovery” The saint wrote hoaxAn influencer who has amassed 3.4 million followers on Instagram, where they post memes related to current events.

The curiosity surrounding Kate's whereabouts — and subsequent online grief — underscores a pattern in which a lack of information provides perfect fodder for creators chasing relevance on algorithm-driven social media platforms.

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“Everybody's trying to get a piece of the viral pie, so to speak,” said Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama. “When you look at the intersection of conspiracy theories and social media, everybody wants to be more curious, especially when content creators are not informed.”

But Maddox said he had never seen such grief before in any online conspiracy culture. He said that usually when cybercriminals are proven wrong, they double down by shifting goalposts to further deny new evidence and justify their actions.

Many online also said Kate's message was a reminder to stop making assumptions about people's personal lives.

It's a sentiment that has surfaced online before, especially when celebrities and public figures are scrutinized more or exposed to unsupported claims by their followers.

Some of actor Chadwick Boseman's fans were upset about this Commented on her weight loss After his death it was revealed that he had been silently battling colon cancer for years. In April 2023, pop star Ariana Grande spoke out The Public's “Concerns About Her body“You never know what happens to someone.”

The Kate news also highlights the tension between the public's desire to know every detail about the royal family and the royals' desire to keep their health struggles private. The princess' father-in-law, King Charles III, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Charles has canceled public appearances while undergoing treatment.

Reshma Chaujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that empowers and equips young women to pursue careers in STEM, said she was “disgusted on the Internet” when she heard about Kate's news.

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“Disgusted with the internet, disgusted with myself for falling into the trap,” Chaujani wrote. An Instagram post. “It's a great example of what we're doing to women, we're second-guessing how a woman spends her time prioritizing her health and taking care of her family, coming up with conspiracy theories to explain away her selfishness.”

With Kate's news now public, Jessica Myrick, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies the psychology of media use, suggested that the online conversation surrounding Kate may be coming to an end.

But while Kate expressed some dismay at the news, Myrick doesn't think social media users will generally stop creating conspiracy theories online.

“Sharing memes on social media doesn't have many consequences, and the likes, laughs, comments that people get … it's empowering and means we'll do it again,” Mirick said.

In her message on Friday, Kate asked people to respect the family's privacy.

“As I complete my treatment, we hope you will understand that as a family, we need some time, space and privacy right now,” she said. “My work has always brought me great joy and I look forward to returning as soon as I can, but for now I must focus on making a full recovery.”

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