Prince Harry wrote an essay about dangerously ‘unwell’ social media companies

Royal visit to Africa - Day Five

I completely forgot about this! In June, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex began supporting the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which was started by Color of Change and supported by groups like the NAACP. The point of the campaign was to get Facebook – and all social media, but first Facebook – to radically change the way they do business, especially when it comes to the proliferation of hate speech, racism and propaganda on their platforms. The Stop Hate for Profit got several major companies to temporarily or permanently pull their advertising off Facebook. Now Prince Harry has written a lengthy essay for Fast Company about what’s next, and the future of social media – you can read the full piece here. Here’s just an excerpt:

A little over four weeks ago, my wife and I started calling business leaders, heads of major corporations, and chief marketing officers at brands and organisations we all use in our daily lives. Our message was clear: The digital landscape is unwell and companies like yours have the chance to reconsider your role in funding and supporting online platforms that have contributed to, stoked, and created the conditions for a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth.

…From conversations with experts in this space, we believe we have to remodel the architecture of our online community in a way 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. This remodeling must include industry leaders from all areas drawing a line in the sand against unacceptable online practices as well as being active participants in the process of establishing new standards for our online world. Companies that purchase online ads must also recognise that our digital world has an impact on the physical world—on our collective health, on our democracies, on the ways we think and interact with each other, on how we process and trust information. Because, if we are susceptible to the coercive forces in digital spaces, then we have to ask ourselves—what does this mean for our children? As a father, this is especially concerning to me.

Around the world, for many reasons, we are at turning point—one that has the potential to be transformative. In all areas of life, a rebuilding of compassionate, trustworthy communities needs to be at the heart of where we go. And this approach must extend to the digital community, which billions of us participate in every day. But it shouldn’t be punitive. When we do the right thing, when we create safe spaces both online and off—everyone wins. Even the platforms themselves.

Meghan and I heard similar arguments made by humane tech leaders we convened at Stanford University earlier this year, by internet law experts, by neuroscientists, and most importantly by young people who have grown up in a fully connected world.

…For companies that purchase online ads, it is one thing to unequivocally disavow hate and racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism, dangerous misinformation, and a well-established online culture that promotes violence and bigotry. It is another thing for them to use their leverage, including through their advertising dollars, to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division. We’re hopeful to see this approach amongst industry leaders become reality. For one, the industry group GARM—the Global Alliance for Responsible Media—has committed to evaluating standards and definitions around online hate speech.

[From Fast Company]

As many have pointed out, none of this is a new conversation, even in royal circles. In 2015, Prince William was very keen (“energized” is the word used at the time) to take up the cause of anti-cyberbullying on social media platforms. His efforts… did not go anywhere. I think he and Kate met with some people once in 2015. As I described back then, it was more like a conversation had been taking place for a while already and William was bandwagoning and taking credit for other people’s work. In this situation with the Sussexes and this particular campaign… it’s not a local thing, it’s not some royal busy work. People have really seen how destructive social media – Facebook in particular – can be. It’s more than “cyberbullying,” it’s hate speech, data mining, spying and Nazis.

The Duke of Sussex and Duchess of Sussex visit the Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, WENN.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

40 Responses to “Prince Harry wrote an essay about dangerously ‘unwell’ social media companies”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Darla says:

    Well good luck to them. I’m convinced Zuckerberg is in bed with Trump. And wants to help him swing the election. Nothing personal, just good business. You understand.

    • Betsy says:

      Oh, at this point I think it’s personal, too. And you’re right that he’s working for Trump.

    • Mac says:

      Facebook is a public company. It is duty bound to maximize profits. Being regulated or trust busted is contrary to maximizing profits. It’s straight up capitalism.

      • SomeChick says:

        This is a huge part of the problem. Public companies are expected/required to make more and more profits each year. That’s not really feasible, especially with the plague changing so many things – but even beforehand – you can’t just have a steady and stable company. It always has to be more money than ever before.

      • CC says:

        There is no duty to maximize profits.

    • Love says:

      We all watched the social network. Facebook was created to judge women on their looks, basically bully them.

      I’m not surprised Zuckerberg is taking this stance of ignorance. I’m just surprised the movie nailed his arrogance so well. Took a while for it to come out though

  2. Lainey says:

    The Sussexes could never have been fulfilled cutting ribbons, unveiling plaques, and the tedious stale bread and butter appearances. They obviously know about cyberbullying. Their causes are organic and not vague efforts for show.

  3. AGreatDane says:

    This is very timely, given that it’s come out that Facebook was banning left wing users and censoring left wing news, but not fake news from right wing fascist pages.

  4. Becks1 says:

    This was a really good piece from Harry. I liked that he is identifying the problem and then saying what he wants these companies to do about it. It’s not just vague wording about “support” etc. he’s saying the companies need to rethink how they do business and their roles in these social media platforms. I also liked how he pointed out that these platforms are not free – they have a very big cost in terms of our personal information.

    Of course H&M are aware of the effects of cyberbullying and the hate that can be spread so easily on social media, but I appreciate that this essay goes a few steps further than that.

    • Love says:

      Yep. Such a great article. And I also liked how he said when advertising on TV, advertisers are very strict about the content they advertise around. They should do the same for social media.

      I wish I had a Facebook account just so I could delete and give my own little FU to Facebook.

      Also… I hate when women get blamed for men’s incompetence, but given her position at Facebook, I DO wish Sheryl Sandberg (mis LEAN IN herself) would say something.

  5. S808 says:

    Glad we got learn a bit more about their Stanford trip. The social media landscape is becoming increasingly scary. It is SO easy for misinformation to spread and the truth is usually too far behind to catch up. We do need to hold these leaders’ feet to the fire to make sure they’re doing what they can to combat this.

  6. Ginger says:

    This was an amazing article by Harry. I really hope him and Meghan will go after hate accounts that make money off of their hate for Meghan. I have heard that hate speech online is a major focus for them moving forward.

  7. Abena Asantewaa says:

    This is such a powerful essay by Harry. These two are really activists, who are fulfilled by advocacy, I can’t imagine them being able to do this as full time senior royals. This is what floats their boats, not all the flim flam and fripperies. Who said Harry is unhappy? That is how you use your privilege.

  8. Liz version 700 says:

    That was really well done. I have to say all of the decisions they are making about their next steps are quite reasonable and seem to be issues that matter to them. Well done. Glad they and their advisors are starting to show glimpses of their future goals and endeavors. And this cause is quite a good one.

  9. Hannah A says:

    Like his mother, he is here to serve. I wonder if a part of them leaving (a big part) was so that they could both change the world in big ways.

  10. Mumbles says:

    Bless his heart. But these monsters get called to Congress every few months, get yelled at for a few hours and threatened with regulation and legislation, pretend to be contrite….and do nothing. They’re not going to change a business model that’s working for them because of a plea for decency.

    • Sofia says:

      That doesn’t mean people should stop trying. If people gave up because “they’re not going to change a business model that’s working for them because of a plea for decency” then we would not have many of the rights we enjoy today such as the woman’s right to vote, civil rights, marriage equality etc

      Nothing will most likely happen. But nothing will definitely happen if people stayed quiet.

    • Nic919 says:

      If enough people get mad about then congress may feel they have to impose a fairness doctrine or even FCC standards.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      But he’s not just talking about legislation. He’s talking about specific actions like getting advertisers to pull their dollars, which historically has been shown to force change.

    • notasugarhere says:

      How incredibly condescending, that ‘bless his heart’.

      Surprise, not every country is the US. There are other countries, particularly in Europe, who are working to hold companies accountable for what is spread on their platforms. Two men are in prison because of their SM assassination threats against King Felipe IV. A woman was imprisoned and fined years ago for claiming on SM that Letizia hadn’t given birth to her daughters.

  11. Bibi says:

    I am tired of men being labeled as stupid when their wives are very smart. I love to read Harry. I like to see that he is just as smart as his wife and together they make a great pair. A smart pair.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I feel like the world has yet to see the best of Harry. I’ve long found him loveable, heart in the right place, but reading that I was really impressed by his ability to articulate these ideas..too impressed I suppose, meaning I didn’t realize he had that in him, the desire yes but not the skill. I mean who knows? Maybe he’s put a lot of effort in recent years to learning and growing, filling in the gaps of his truncated educational career.

      • Ginger says:

        He could never shine to his fullest potential because the spare is supposed to be a stupid party boy. Hearing him in interviews and his speeches, it’s clear how intelligent he is. Plus he is an Apache pilot which is very impressive. I can’t wait to see what Harry will do.

      • Becks1 says:

        Agree with all three of these comments. We haven’t seen the best of Harry yet because we were never supposed to see his best. When you listen to him in some of those zoom calls, its clear he knows what the organization is doing, he’s interested in it, and he also shuts up and listens when that’s warranted. Look at Invictus, Sentebale, Endeavour – and that’s just the beginning. I think a huge part of the reason for Sussexit is because Harry wants to DO MORE and BE MORE than “just” a member of the royal family. The racism and abuse aimed at Meghan just tipped the scales for him.

    • Babz says:

      @Ginger, thank you for mentioning the fact that he drove Apache attack helicopters in the service. You don’t get to do that by being stupid. Every time I hear people calling him “dim” or “stupid,” I want to remind them of this. This was a well-written, well-researched article. Meghan may have collaborated with it, or not, but he’s plenty smart enough to write this by himself. It’s not his first article, and you can see he is progressing by leaps and bounds. This is very impressive.

      • bettyrose says:

        Meghan may have helped write & edit, or maybe she just offered a sounding board for his ideas, but I love that he’s continuing to use British spellings.

  12. Mtec says:

    I follow this show called Terrace House, and recently one of its cast, a young girl, died by suicide because of online bullying the show fans waged on her. She had done nothing wrong except be a young girl with a crush on someone and for that she got so much hate. And it seriously reminds me of the hate anti-Meghan/Sussex fans are always spouting on social media. It’s just vicious. And should never be welcomed anywhere.

  13. Lexistential says:

    So proud of Harry. This is conscientious advocacy and a great example of the leadership we need to see more of, and he has the best of both Diana’s empathy and connection with Charles’s willingness to take action. It’s a thrill to see him growing into himself, and shame on the courtiers for holding back his work and potential. (And too bad for them and the BRF- we have him on our side of the pond now!)

  14. candy says:

    Our society is definitely not in a good place following the invention of the internet, period. While there are certainly great things about technology, such as the democratization of knowledge and information, there is also a very dark side. I don’t know if we can emerge from this. All I have to say is hats off to anyone raising kids these days. I would find it very difficult.

  15. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    Statements like this give me hope.

  16. Lizzie says:

    So eloquently written when you consider that he is a ‘shadow of his former self’, ‘floundering in LA’, no longer has his brother arm around is shoulder, simply following his strong willed wife and missing his true HOME.

  17. MsIam says:

    I hope they continue with their advocacy. It won’t be easy to force change upon these tech giants but I think Harry and Meghan are great spokespeople and can get their voices heard.

  18. L says:

    These two are going to do great things. Mark my words!

  19. blunt talker says:

    We weren’t suppose to see how thoughtful Harry is about issues he care about. These tech giants have sites that actually promote hate and violence towards other people. They should be held responsible for the negativity put into society. Free speech is one thing-but make the statements some people make on the internet is cause for concern. When people say violent things towards other living people the tech companies need to take action-kick these people off these platforms-let them know their names and addresses will be turned over to authorities for making threats of violence. I am very pleased with Harry’s stance on this issue-he stated his thoughts plain and in a powerful way. I am proud of him so such today.

  20. Mariane says:

    I agree with Kaiser, this is personal for harry as he has been targeted by nazi/white supremacists who sent powder..etc and made threats that led to 2 being imprisoned. The megxit name originated from conspiracy theorists and hate groups and the racist British press picked it up and used it to blame Meghan for her and harry leaving. I’m glad to see harry doing this. They were meant for greater things than cutting ribbons and smiling for photographs.

  21. Michelleb says:

    Ok this is all well and good but practice what you preach. All of these essays don’t make any real impact when people continue to use these platforms. Aka hello Sussexs and your instagram…which is a Facebook company that also specifically targets ads and mines personal data to sell. Also, recently algorithm of ads on Instagram have also been favoring Trump in an analysis. I find these messages a little hollow when the person making this message relied heavily on the critiqued platform to promote themselves.

    • BnLurkN4eva says:

      It’s the platform that’s available! JESUS! When are some people going to quit expecting the perfect advocate – newsflash, there are no perfect advocate. This is good, this is a great start and this kind of request needs to continue to come from all kinds of not perfect advocates. All the available platforms are problematic, all of them. Still, to engage in our present world, we have no choice but to utilize these platforms. Asking that the platforms take responsibility and change and requesting that companies doing business ask the platforms they use to be responsible is a good thing – that’s what he’s advocating.

      • Michelleb says:

        It’s one of the available dates platforms that’s popular bc everyone keeps using them. What incentive does FB have for change If the individuals that are critiquing them use their platform?? It’s a missed opportunity. Heck, they don’t even promote this message on their Instagram! I’m not asking for a perfect activist as you say. I’m looking for an effective one that uses their immense power and privilege to make changes. This will accomplish nothing in the long run except be a PR stunt for the Sussex.

      • February-Pisces says:

        I don’t really get your point @michelleb. Social media is what we are stuck with, Facebook and Instagram is here to stay and unfortunately there aren’t many alternatives. Bashing it’s users is pointless because everyone uses these platforms. We have to accept that people use them, including the Sussex’s even though they don’t currently. So we have to work with these platforms that we have to make them safer. People need to be held accountable for posting their hateful bile online, the reason so many people say what they want is because they are never held accountable, and essentially the platforms have no incentive to change their ways. Its up to Facebook and the rest to make their platforms safer, but they won’t do anything because why would they? If big advertisers put pressure on them then maybe they will actually stop and listen.

        Saying they have no right to say that because they use the platform is a weak argument, only people who use social media and seen it at its worst will care about making it safer.