Months ago, Prince Harry penned an essay about corporate responsibilities in our age of the internet.
His words were both accurate and prescient.
Now, pointing to the horrifying Capitol attack of January 6 as an example of the dangers of misinformation, Harry is speaking again.
And he notes that he and Meghan know all-too-well the harm that malicious lies can do.
Prince Harry spoke to Fast Company about the struggles facing our world in the era of social media.
It was on this same platform that he spoke late last summer about these perils.
Now, however, he has multiple examples to which to point — including an attempted coup right here in the United States.
In his interview, the Duke of Sussex was asked if the thoroughly documented online harassment that he and his wife have endured in the UK was a factor.
“I was really surprised to witness how my story had been told one way,” Harry remarked, “my wife’s story had been told one way.”
“And then,” he lamented, “our union sparked something that made the telling of that story very different.”
“That false narrative became the mothership for all of the harassment you’re referring to,” Harry acknowledged.
That narrative being weird lies reported as fact in UK tabloids, all detailed Meghan seemingly to herald the collapse of the royal family and the destruction of Britain itself.
“It wouldn’t have even begun had our story just been told truthfully,” he pointed out.
“When I wrote that piece,” Harry said of his 2020 essay, “I was sharing my view that dominant online platforms have contributed to and stoked the conditions for a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth.”
“And I stand by that,” he affirmed, “along with millions of others who see and feel what this era has done at every level”
Harry noted with regret that “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.”
“What happens online does not stay online,” Harry acknowledged.
He said that, rather, “it spreads everywhere, like wildfire: into our homes and workplaces, into the streets, into our minds.”
“The question really becomes about what to do when news and information sharing is no longer a decent, truthful exchange,” Harry reasoned, “but rather an exchange of weaponry.”
“There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organised on social media,” Harry pointed out of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, “which is an issue of violent extremism.”
He added: “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.”
“And in Brazil,” Harry noted, “social media provided a conduit for misinformation which ultimately brought destruction to the Amazon, which is an environmental and global health issue.”
“We can call for digital reform and debate how that happens and what it looks like,” Harry suggested.
No one knows the best way to fix the problems that infest social media, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t put a lot of experts together and try to figure it out.
“But,” he added, “it’s also on each of us to take a more critical eye to our own relationship with technology and media.”
“With these companies, in this model, we have a very small number of incredibly powerful and consolidated gatekeepers,” Harry acknowledged.
These are Big Tech titans “who have deployed hidden algorithms to pick the content billions see every day.”
They gather data “and curate the information — or misinformation — everyone consumes.”
“This radically alters how and why we inform opinions,” Harry stated with regret.
“It alters how we speak and what we decide to speak about,” he noted.
Harry also pointed out: “It alters how we think and how we react.”
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