Prince Harry turned his attention to social media's role in shaping how people think in his latest interview, three weeks after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Harry, whose wife Meghan Markle has been the target of trolls online ever since they began dating in 2016, believes that the "dominant online platforms" contributed to crises of hate, health, and truth on a global scale. Harry said people are "losing loved ones to conspiracy theories" and losing a "sense of self" because of the constant falsehoods online.
Harry first brought up the topic of social media reform in an August essay for Fast Company. Last week, the outlet caught up with Harry again to see if his views on the subject have changed. They have not, especially in light of the deadly riot at the Capitol, where pro-Trump rioters believed the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from President Donald Trump to give President Joe Biden the victory through voter fraud. Some rioters also carried signs and wore shirts showing support for the QAnon conspiracy theory.
"When I wrote that piece, I was sharing my view 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," Harry told Fast Company, referencing his previous essay. "And I stand by that, along with millions of others who see and feel what this era has done at every level—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."
Harry insisted that this is not a problem that could be shrugged off, and he is not blowing it out of proportion. "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," the Duke of Sussex explained. "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."
The issue is very personal to Harry, who said he saw conspiracies centering on Markle surface online after their relationship began. They heard from people around the world who also had similar experiences with online harassment. "To their own degree, everyone has been deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space," Harry told Fast Company. "It could be as individual as seeing a loved one go down the path of radicalization or as collective as seeing the science behind the climate crisis denied." Everyone is "vulnerable" to behind swayed by false information online, which is why Harry believes this is more of a "humanitarian issue" than just a political or tech concern.
In his Fast Company interview, Harry noted that a "Rupert Murdoch newspaper" claimed they were quitting social media, which was "news" to them. During the early months of their marriage, the couple did run an Instagram page, but they stopped posting on it in March 2020. Harry said they might return to social media in the future, but "right now we’ve thrown much of our energy into learning about this space and how we can help."