Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has called on social media companies to review their policies in light of what he describes as a “crisis of hate” and “crisis of truth”.
In a Q&A interview with business magazine Fast Company, the British royal voiced his concerns regarding the spread of misinformation online following the US Capitol riots, which resulted in the deaths of five people.
“We are losing loved ones to conspiracy theories, losing a sense of self because of the barrage of mistruths, and at the largest scale, losing our democracies,” he said.
The interview builds on an opinion article that Prince Harry had written for the magazine last year, wherein he wrote about the importance of remodelling “the architecture of our online community defined more by compassion than hate; by truth instead of misinformation; by equity and inclusiveness instead of injustice and fearmongering; by free, rather than weaponised, speech”.
Prince Harry said that his personal experience and that of his wife, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, with online harassment in the UK has influenced his worldview.
Apart from the Capitol riots, Prince Harry also directly mentioned social media role’s destructive role in other countries.
“There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organised on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism. It is widely acknowledged that social media played a role in the genocide in Myanmar and was used as a vehicle to incite violence against the Rohingya people, which is a human rights issue,” Prince Harry said.
In 2018, members of the Myanmar military organised a Facebook campaign of anti-Rohingya propaganda that incited the murder and rape of the ethnic group.
“And in Brazil, social media provided a conduit for misinformation which ultimately brought destruction to the Amazon, which is an environmental and global health issue,” he added.
When discussing social media reform, he referred to experts who have cited the importance of accountability on the part of tech giants. “There has to be accountability to collective wellbeing, not just financial incentive. It’s hard for me to understand how the platforms themselves can eagerly take profit but shun responsibility,” he said.
Prince Harry also called for more responsibility from individuals to curtail their social media usage and learn how to fact-check sources online. He added that communities must also aspire to exercise more compassion and connection to others in the digital realm.