In a new interview with Fast Company, Prince Harry explains why he and his wife, Meghan Markle, work so actively to raise awareness about the dangers of spreading misinformation online. The Duke of Sussex said the often racist, sexist, and outright false tabloid coverage surrounding his relationship with the duchess made him wary of social media.
“I was really 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,” said Prince Harry in the interview. “That false narrative became the mothership for all of the harassment you’re referring to. It wouldn’t have even begun had our story just been told truthfully.”
Prince Harry expressed that even though the couple’s lives were affected by false stories often circulating online, it also led them to meet others around the world who are working to combat the spread of misinformation.
“But the important thing about what we experienced is that it led to us hearing from so many others around the world. We’ve 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,” continued the prince.
“To their own degree, everyone has been deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space. It could be as individual as seeing a loved one go down the path of radicalisation or as collective as seeing the science behind the climate crisis denied. We are all vulnerable to it, which is why I don’t see it as a tech issue, or a political issue—it’s a humanitarian issue.”
The Duke of Sussex, who now lives in California with his wife and their young son, Archie, also addressed this month’s attacks at the U.S. Capitol building. Many have blamed the siege on former President Donald Trump‘s dangerous utilization of social media in spreading falsehoods about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“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. The magnitude of this cannot be overstated, as noted even by the defectors who helped build these platforms,” continued Prince Harry. “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. 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.
“I think it’s a false choice to say you have to pick between free speech or a more compassionate and trustworthy digital world. They are not mutually exclusive.”
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US.