Prince Harry wrote an essay about dangerously ‘unwell’ social media companies

I completely forgot about this! In June, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex began supporting the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which was started by Color of Change and supported by groups like the NAACP. The point of the campaign was to get Facebook – and all social media, but first Facebook – to radically change the way they do business, especially when it comes to the proliferation of hate speech, racism and propaganda on their platforms. The Stop Hate for Profit got several major companies to temporarily or permanently pull their advertising off Facebook. Now Prince Harry has written a lengthy essay for Fast Company about what’s next, and the future of social media – you can read the full piece here. Here’s just an excerpt:

A little over four weeks ago, my wife and I started calling business leaders, heads of major corporations, and chief marketing officers at brands and organisations we all use in our daily lives. Our message was clear: The digital landscape is unwell and companies like yours have the chance to reconsider your role 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.

…From conversations with experts in this space, we believe we have to remodel the architecture of our online community in a way defined more by compassion than hate; by truth instead of misinformation; by equity and inclusiveness instead of injustice and fearmongering; by free, rather than weaponised, speech. This remodeling must include industry leaders from all areas drawing a line in the sand against unacceptable online practices as well as being active participants in the process of establishing new standards for our online world. Companies that purchase online ads must also recognise that our digital world has an impact on the physical world—on our collective health, on our democracies, on the ways we think and interact with each other, on how we process and trust information. Because, if we are susceptible to the coercive forces in digital spaces, then we have to ask ourselves—what does this mean for our children? As a father, this is especially concerning to me.

Around the world, for many reasons, we are at turning point—one that has the potential to be transformative. 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. But it shouldn’t be punitive. When we do the right thing, when we create safe spaces both online and off—everyone wins. Even the platforms themselves.

Meghan and I heard similar arguments made by humane tech leaders we convened at Stanford University earlier this year, by internet law experts, by neuroscientists, and most importantly by young people who have grown up in a fully connected world.

…For companies that purchase online ads, it is one thing to unequivocally disavow hate and racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism, dangerous misinformation, and a well-established online culture that promotes violence and bigotry. It is another thing for them to use their leverage, including through their advertising dollars, to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division. We’re hopeful to see this approach amongst industry leaders become reality. For one, the industry group GARM—the Global Alliance for Responsible Media—has committed to evaluating standards and definitions around online hate speech.

[From Fast Company]

As many have pointed out, none of this is a new conversation, even in royal circles. In 2015, Prince William was very keen (“energized” is the word used at the time) to take up the cause of anti-cyberbullying on social media platforms. His efforts… did not go anywhere. I think he and Kate met with some people once in 2015. As I described back then, it was more like a conversation had been taking place for a while already and William was bandwagoning and taking credit for other people’s work. In this situation with the Sussexes and this particular campaign… it’s not a local thing, it’s not some royal busy work. People have really seen how destructive social media – Facebook in particular – can be. It’s more than “cyberbullying,” it’s hate speech, data mining, spying and Nazis.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, WENN.

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