Prince William has accused tech companies of hypocrisy, saying they’re falling short in tackling cyberbullying and other social problems while reveling in a “self-image grounded in their positive power.”
He told tech leaders they must “fight back against the intolerance and cruelty that has been brought to the surface by your platforms.”
In a surprisingly political speech, William called on social-media companies to “reject the false choice of profits over values” and issued a coruscating condemnation of their social impact, saying, “On every challenge they face—fake news, extremism, polarization, hate speech, trolling, mental health, privacy, and bullying—our tech leaders seem to be on the back foot.”
In a speech delivered at BBC Broadcasting House in London, to highlight the UK’s Anti-Bullying Week, William, who, along with his brother, is known to be no fan of social media, said: “Technology companies still have a great deal to learn about the responsibilities that come with significant power.”
William was accompanied by Kate. The two have been prominent advocates of anti-bullying campaigns as part of their mental-health umbrella charity, Heads Together. They were at the BBC to launch the broadcaster’s new “Own It” app, which aims to help children with their first smartphone to stay safe online.
William said he’d received an underwhelming response from industry titans to the Cyberbullying Taskforce he and Kate set up in 2016.
Many positive things had been achieved through social media, he said, including connection, friendship, family, and knowledge, but then added of the companies: “Their self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems they are creating.”
While William did not name any individual companies, he appeared to reference the Facebook, saying: “The journey from inventors in the student dormitory to the leaders of some of the most valuable companies on earth has been so fast that they may struggle to understand that their incentives have changed.
“The noise of the shareholders, bottom lines, and profits is distracting them from the values that made them so successful in the first place.
“They are so proud of what they have built that they cannot hear the growing concern from their users.”