Prince Harry revealed that he and his wife, Meghan Markle, have been working behind the scenes to support a movement to stop Facebook and other social media companies from allowing hate speech and misinformation to flourish on their platforms.
In an essay for Fast Company, the Duke of Sussex also praised “humane tech leaders” he met at Stanford University earlier this year, along with others, for wanting to rebuild “a more compassionate digital world.”
To create this new and improved digital world, Harry said that companies that advertise on social media must take a stand against “hate and racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism, dangerous misinformation, and a well-established online culture that promotes violence and bigotry.”
“Around the world, for many reasons, we are at turning point,” Harry wrote. “In all areas of life, a rebuilding of compassionate, trustworthy communities needs to be at the heart of where we go. And this approach must extend to the digital community, which billions of us participate in every day.”
Harry and Meghan have been living in her hometown of Los Angeles since stepping down from their duties as full-time members of the royal family. The couple also have been sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are in the process of launching their Archewell philanthropic foundation and have been speaking out in favor of social justice and Black Lives Matter. They’ve also been embroiled in a high-profile court battle over a U.K. tabloid report about Meghan’s relationship with her estranged father.
Harry’s Fast Company screed against the “unwell” digital landscape seems to be line with the couple’s other current projects. In the essay, he explained how he and Meghan joined efforts by Stop Hate for Profit, a civil rights and racial justice campaign, to push social media companies to change their policies around hate speech.
The Stop Hate for Profit campaign has focused on changing policies at Facebook by targeting the company’s ad revenues. In June, the campaign called on companies to “hit pause on hate” and not advertise on Facebook in July.
A variety of major brands joined the boycott, starting with the outdoor clothing brand The North Face and and telecom leader Verizon. Sony Interactive Entertainment, Clorox, Adidas, Ford, Denny’s, Volkswagen and Microsoft followed suit.
Harry said he and Meghan simultaneously made personal calls to heads of major corporations and chief marketing officers and urged them to consider their roles “in funding and supporting online platforms that have contributed to, stoked, and created the conditions for a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth.”
Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, cited reports showing that Facebook lost $7 billion in ad revenue from the boycott. He said this loss shows that companies have leverage to “demand change.”
In an interview with CNET, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said civil rights advocates have been pushing Facebook to make their platform safer for years, but Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have resisted, he said.
“To be frank, we’ve not yet seen enough meaningful change,” Greenblatt said.
Hate speech on Facebook helped fuel a genocide in 2017 against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, CNET reported. In 2019, a gunman used the social network to livestream the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
To civil rights activists, the lack of progress really became apparent following the police killing of George Floyd, CNET reported. Conspiracy theories and misinformation about Floyd’s death spread on social networks. Facebook also was used to incite violence against people protesting his death in cities across the country, CNET reported.
Harry explained that advertisers need to be a part of conversation to create “meaningful digital reform.” He said “we can’t wait” for policymakers and regulators to take the next steps.
“This is a moment for companies around the world — companies with business and advertising models directly tied to digital platforms — to consider how they can bring about reform to ensure the betterment of all,” he said.
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