Prince Harry thinks that the destructive power of social media needs to be reigned in after the Insurrection at The Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 showed “the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded.”
In an exclusive and rare interview in the latest issue of Fast Company magazine published Friday, Harry says, “We have seen time and again what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded. There is no way to downplay this,” he said, noting that the failed insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was largely organized online.
“There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism,” Harry continued, going on to cite more examples of how misinformation on social media led to humanitarian crises, including genocide in Myanmar and destruction in the Amazon.
“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 magnitude of this cannot be overstated, as noted even by the defectors who helped build these platforms. It takes courage to stand up, cite where things have gone wrong, and offer proposals and solutions. The need for that is greater than ever before. So I’m encouraged by and grateful for the groundswell of people who work—or have worked—inside these very platforms choosing to speak up against hate, violence, division, and confusion”
Harry’s interest in the subject was sparked when he witnessed, “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. 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.”
He continued: “The important thing about what we experienced is that it led to us hearing from so many others around the world. We’ve thought a lot about those in much more vulnerable positions than us, and how much of a need there is for real empathy and support. To their own degree, everyone has been deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space. It could be as individual as seeing a loved one go down the path of radicalisation or as collective as seeing the science behind the climate crisis denied.”
We are all vulnerable to it, which is why I don’t see it as a tech issue, or a political issue—it’s a humanitarian issue.