Harry added that the riot was “organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism. 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.”
Harry and Meghan will work “to accelerate the pace of change in the digital world,” the prince told Fast Company. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that our dominant technologies were built to grow and grow and grow, without serious consideration for the ripple effect of that growth. We have to do more than simply reconsider this model. The stakes are too high, and time is running out.”
Harry added 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.”
“Along with millions of others,” Harry said, “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.”
This is not the first time Harry has denounced social media and online platforms. In an article for Fast Company last year, he wrote, “Every time you click, they learn more about you. Our information, private data, and unknown habits are traded on for advertising space and dollars. The price we’re all paying is much higher than it appears.”
In this new interview, Harry did not directly address politics, far-right extremism, white supremacy, or former President Donald Trump and his pending impeachment trial over his role in the riot.
Instead, Harry made clear his personal animus towards the online world, saying he had been “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. That false narrative became the mothership for all of the harassment... It wouldn’t have even begun had our story just been told truthfully.”
Their experience had meant the couple had “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,” Harry told Fast Company. He said he saw the fallout from online cruelty as “a humanitarian issue.”
To counter “the avalanche of misinformation we are all inundated with,” Harry said, “there has to be accountability to collective wellbeing, not just financial incentive. It’s hard for me to understand how the platforms themselves can eagerly take profit but shun responsibility.”
“Humans crave connection, social bonds, and a sense of belonging. 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 radicalization,” he added.
Harry and Meghan, who are not presently using social media, will revisit it “when it feels right for us,” the prince said, “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.”