Legally, a conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to commit a criminal or otherwise unlawful act. So what is the difference between a conspiracy and conspiracy theory?
We all have an idea of what a conspiracy theory is. At its core, it is “a theory that an otherwise unexplained event was caused by the secret concerted action of powerful individuals or groups, rather than by a combination of circumstances.” CREDO The Penguin English Dictionary
But in some definitions an essential part of conspiracy theory is that it is more perceived than real. “it is the exaggerated nature of the claims, and the often slender evidence advanced, that leads conspiracy theories to be regarded as a phenomenon requiring explanation rather than being seen as ‘true’ theories. Thus, they might be explained as arising from the believers’ powerlessness and structurally precarious situation, and the need for the believers themselves to find a reason’ for this and some hope of resolution”. CREDO Collins Dictionary of Sociology
Generally a conspiracy theory is created when people question a series of events. But when the motive is not to question, but to make money with clicks, it is fake news. If the motive is to sway public opinion, it is propaganda.
Taking these elements into account, a conspiracy theory: