Harry and Meghan targeted by hate campaign fueled by Twitter’s algorithm, report finds

Data analysis firm discovers hate content from 55 Twitter accounts potentially reached tens of millions of users

Kate Ng
Wednesday 27 October 2021 13:57 BST
El príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle en el evento Global Citizen Live
El príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle en el evento Global Citizen Live
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were targeted by a coordinated hate campaign made worse by Twitter’s algorithm, a new report has said.

Data analysis firm Bot Sentinel investigated the source of online hatred aimed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and found that 70 per cent of the original hate content targeting the couple comes from just 55 Twitter accounts.

After analysing 114,000 tweets using hashtags and keywords, the firm found that the accounts were used purely for creating negative content and a further 28 accounts were used to amplify the primary accounts.

These accounts, combined with their collective 187,631 followers, reached an estimated 17,000,000 users, according to Bot Sentinel.

“Our research revealed these accounts were brazenly coordinating on the platform, and at least one account was openly recruiting people to join their hate initiative on Twitter,” said the report.

The targeted accounts also spread their content beyond Twitter, often including links to “private blogs, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels predominantly focused on Harry and Meghan”.

The firm used Twitter accounts without friends or followers to conduct the research and found that after viewing just two hate accounts, Twitter’s algorithm began suggesting that they follow “numerous hate accounts”.

While Twitter had suspended 40 per cent of the primary accounts, Bot Sentinel said the accounts used “tactics to avoid suspension”.

These included using the word “parody” in their profiles, and using coded racist language about Meghan, who is currently the only biracial member of the royal family, to avoid detection.

A spokesperson for Twitter told Buzzfeed News it was “actively investigating the information and accounts” in the report.

Christopher Bouzy, CEO of Bot Sentinel, told the website that the campaign was unlike anything he or his team had seen before.

He suggested that the people behind the hate accounts “know how to manipulate the algorithms, manipulate Twitter”, and that the level of complexity involved in the campaign come from people “who are paid to do this stuff”.

Meghan has previously spoken out about how negative coverage of her in the mainstream media and on social media has impacted her life.

Speaking to the Teenager Therapy podcast last year, Meghan said: “I’m told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world – male or female.

“Now, eight months of that I wasn’t even visible. I was on maternity leave or with a baby, but what was able to just be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable.”

Harry compared his wife’s experience with the press to his mother, Princess Diana, and told Oprah Winfrey during the couple’s bombshell interview in 2021 that he was seeing “history repeating itself”.

He said: “My biggest concern was history repeating itself, and I’ve said that before on numerous occasions, very publicly. And what I was seeing was history repeating itself. But more, perhaps.

“Or definitely far more dangerous because then you add race in and you add social media in. And when I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother.”

The Independent has contacted representatives for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for comment.

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