Multiple conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Elizabeth II

From the height of her 96 years, it of course seemed unlikely that Queen Elizabeth II would die of old age. So, even before the official announcement of his death, some went looking for wild assumptions. A stark example of how misinformation spreads during major news, recycling the same tactics to sow confusion online. According to the chapels, the death of Elizabeth II would therefore be linked to the vaccine against Covid-19 or to Hillary Clinton. “Accepting ordinary explanations for such a significant event may be less convincing or less appealing,” notes Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent in the UK.

Misinformation began circulating from early concerns about the Queen’s health, with Twitter accounts impersonating reputable outlets like the BBC and prematurely announcing her death. Then, on September 8, Buckingham Palace officially announced the death of Elizabeth II. “People all over the world have been told of and affected by the Queen’s passing, giving the spreaders of misinformation an endless reservoir of misleading stories to draw from,” says Dan Evon of the charity. News Literacy Project.

Old recipes and targeted tricks

In other words, it was easy to use people’s distress to sow confusion by creating fake news, and some had a field day. Among these, two montages were deliberately created for the occasion: a video from a month ago of people dancing in front of Buckingham Palace which was transformed to make it appear that Irish people were dancing for joy after being informed of the Queen’s death, and a fake image of Meghan Markle, wife of Prince Harry, wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “The Queen is dead”.

Some have blamed Elizabeth II’s death on the coronavirus vaccine, as they had previously done for the deaths of American actors Betty White and Bob Saget. Others have held Hillary Clinton responsible, alleging that the sovereign had in her possession compromising files on the former candidate for the White House that she was about to bring to light. This is an old conspiracy theory that the Clintons would have their political opponents assassinated.

QAnon and diverted advertising

When something important happens, an activist always tries to find an angle that lends itself to their own beliefs, according to Mike Caulfield, a disinformation specialist at the Center for an Informed Public (CIP) at the University of Washington. For example, “antivax activists are trying to see if there’s a way to blame the death of a public figure on vaccination,” he explains.

Those who adhere to the ideas of the QAnon nebula have associated the death of the queen with their beliefs that there is a global satanist and pedophile conspiracy, using it to validate the legitimacy of their movement. “The royal family, given the well-known close relationship between Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein, has always given food for thought to followers of the QAnon movement,” said CIP member Rachel Moran. A popular video among QAnon supporters, which has spread like wildfire on the TikTok social network, showing a naked boy escaping from Buckingham Palace, they say, turned out to be an old promotional clip from a TV show.

Think before you share

The week following the death of Elizabeth II, the company Zignal Labs reported 76,000 mentions of the queen associated with Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell (both convicted of sex trafficking) on ​​social networks, websites, on radio, television and in the press. The stories linking Elizabeth II to pedophilia, Hillary Clinton and vaccines were mentioned 42,000, 8,000 and 7,000 times respectively.

But there are ways to avoid falling into the misinformation trap. Media literacy organizations like the CIP recommend comparing online posts to reliable news sources and pausing before sharing. “Even a few moments of reflection can often make a big difference,” says Gordon Pennycook of the University of Regina in Canada.

Multiple conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Elizabeth II