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The internet has been buzzing with talk about the recent “KateGate” frenzy surrounding Kate Middleton after the Princess of Wales announced her cancer diagnosis in a video. This put an end to the jokes and conspiracy theories circulating, with many expressing sympathy and guilt for the way they had previously treated the situation. UK tabloids and royalists turned their attention back to criticizing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, while some commentators pointed out the strange PR decisions made by the Palace that added fuel to the fire.

The excesses of “KateGate” were seen as a reflection of the current state of the internet, where news, memes, and conspiracy theories often intertwine to create a chaotic blend of content. While Kate Middleton herself was not the target of most jokes, Prince William bore the brunt of the mockery as the internet unrestrainedly poked fun at him. The phenomenon, blamed by some on Russian and Chinese troll farms, seemed to be driven by a desire to humiliate powerful institutions, such as the Palace, which typically receive a high level of respect from the British media.

The origins of “KateGate” can be traced back to a group of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle fans known as the “Sussex Squad,” who started the #KateIsMissing hashtag. The conspiracy theories gained traction when Prince William canceled a royal engagement for personal reasons, leading to speculation about Kate’s well-being. The release of a poorly received picture by Kensington Palace further fueled the fire, creating a sense of distrust in the public towards the Palace as a reliable source of information. This distrust was already present due to previous controversies involving the royal family.

The direction that the narrative of #KateIsMissing took exposed a deeper issue in the public perception of the male heirs to the throne and their relationships with women who enter the royal family. With little information available, internet users created speculative fan-fiction about the state of Kate and Prince William’s marriage, including rumors of infidelity involving Rose Hanbury. These rumors spread internationally, becoming the subject of mainstream media coverage, with Hanbury’s lawyers demanding retractions for false information. The impact of generative AI technology further complicated the situation by creating AI-generated images that fueled conspiracy theories.

Generative AI technology played a significant role in perpetuating the “KateGate” conspiracy theories, with AI-generated images and videos circulating on social media platforms. Despite the inaccuracies of AI “unblurring” technology, conspiracy theorists and commentators continued to use these manipulated images as evidence to support their narratives. The prevalence of generative AI in image and video creation has made it easier for conspiracy theories to gain traction, as technology can now be used to dismiss legitimate evidence as fake. The combination of PR mishaps by the Palace and a conspiracy-heavy media landscape led to the uncontrollable spread of “KateGate.”

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