Prince Harry demands urgent social media reform in response to Capitol riots

Duke of Sussex says he and Meghan Markle will ‘revisit social media when it feels right for us’

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 22 January 2021 22:19 GMT
Prince Harry calls for social media reform following Capitol riots
Prince Harry calls for social media reform following Capitol riots

Prince Harry has reiterated the need for social media reform following the deadly Capitol riots.

The Duke of Sussex discussed the dangers of unregulated social media use in a new question-and-answer interview with Fast Company, where he was asked whether his opinions regarding the impact of social media on our society have changed in light of the riots.

Referencing an essay he’d previously written for the outlet, in which he said 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,” Prince Harry said he “stands by 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,” the duke said, adding: “The magnitude of this cannot be overstated.”

Referring to the “consequences of the digital space” as a “humanitarian issue,” Harry said that all people have experienced the negative sides of social media to some degree.

“To their own degree, everyone has been deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space,” he said, adding that it could be anything from “seeing a loved one go down the path of radicalisation” to seeing “the science behind the climate crisis denied”.

Harry also acknowledged his and his wife Meghan Markle’s first-hand experience with the negativity of the digital world, and why the harassment they experienced played a part in their dedication to reform.

“I was really surprised to witness how my story had been told one way, my wife’s story had been told one way, and then our union sparked something that made the telling of that story very different,” he said. “That false narrative became the mothership for all of the harassment you’re referring to. It wouldn’t have even begun had our story just been told truthfully.”

While he admitted that he does not know what needs to change, but rather relies on the opinions of experts, he told the outlet that the answer he often hears is the need for accountability.

“There has to be accountability to collective wellbeing, not just financial incentive,” he said of social media companies, adding that it is also upon users to be more responsible in how they use these platforms.

In addition to easy solutions such as time limits and fact-checking information one reads online, Harry also said that people need to consciously choose to be more compassionate.

“There's a responsibility to compassion that we each own. Humans crave connection, social bonds, and a sense of belonging,” he said. “When we don’t have those, we end up fractured, and in the digital age that can unfortunately be a catalyst for finding connection in mass extremism movements or radicalisation.

“We need to take better care of each other, especially in these times of isolation and vulnerability.”

As for whether he and Meghan will one day return to social media, the duke said they plan to “when it feels right for us”.

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