In the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chose not to issue a public statement addressing what had transpired. But now, the Prince has addressed the event in an interview with Fast Company, stressing that online disinformation and flawed social media platforms—issues that he and Meghan are passionate about—helped foment the siege.
"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.
"We have seen time and again what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded. There is no way to downplay this. There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism," Harry said. "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, social media provided a conduit for misinformation which ultimately brought destruction to the Amazon, which is an environmental and global health issue."
He added, "we should avoid buying into the idea that social media is the ultimate modern-day public square and that any attempt to ask platforms to be accountable to the landscape they’ve created is an attack or restriction of speech. I think it’s a false choice to say you have to pick between free speech or a more compassionate and trustworthy digital world. They are not mutually exclusive."
Harry noted that he and Meghan spent much of last year "consulting the experts and learning directly from academics, advocates, and policymakers" in this area, as well as listening to people who had been personally affected by misinformation.
Earlier this month, the Times reported that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were "very unlikely" to return to social media, after leaving their previous account amid the transition to their post-royal lives. Asked about their future plans for using online platforms, Harry said, "We will revisit social media when it feels right for us—perhaps when we see more meaningful commitments to change or reform—but right now we’ve thrown much of our energy into learning about this space and how we can help."
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