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In a rare interview, the royal highlighted "what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded"

By Ashley Boucher
January 22, 2021 08:21 PM
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Prince Harry
Prince Harry
| Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Prince Harry is arguing for a change to the digital landscape as we know it.

In an interview with Fast Company published Friday, Harry — who has long been outspoken about the negative impact of social media — said that the digital world needs "remodeling" from a humanitarian standpoint.

"We have seen time and again what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded. There is no way to downplay this," he said, noting that the failed insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was largely organized online.

"There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism," Harry continued, going on to cite more examples of how misinformation on social media led to humanitarian crises, including genocide in Myanmar and destruction in the Amazon.

pro Trump protesters breach Capitol building
Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Rioters used social media sites like Parler and Gab, popular among right-wing extremists, to plan the coup attempt on January 6. Amazon later removed Parler from its web hosting service. Donald Trump, who incited the riot, was kicked off nearly every social media platform in the days following.

Harry likened social media to the idea of a "public square" where anyone can share their ideas, noting the importance of guard rails to keep the tech giants in charge accountable.

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"I'm not saying we should abandon technology in favor of Speakers' Corner," he told Fast Company. "Rather, it's that we should avoid buying into the idea that social media is the ultimate modern-day public square and that any attempt to ask platforms to be accountable to the landscape they've created is an attack or restriction of speech."

"I think it's a false choice to say you have to pick between free speech or a more compassionate and trustworthy digital world," he said. "They are not mutually exclusive."

Prince Harry
Prince Harry
| Credit: Peter Nicholls-WPA Pool/Getty Images

"I believe we can begin to make our digital world healthier, more compassionate, more inclusive, and trustworthy," he added later in the interview. "And it's time to move from rethinking to remodeling."

It's not the first time that Harry has spoken out in favor of more regulation online.

He wrote an essay for Fast Company in August urging companies to use their advertising dollars "to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division."