What happens to those caught up in the toxic lies of conspiracy theorists? The Guardian spoke to five victims whose lives were wrecked by falsehoods

Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

Together with their first cousins, fake news, they are challenging society’s trust in facts. At its most toxic, this contagion poses a profound threat to democracy by damaging its bedrock: a shared commitment to truth.

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