Prince Harry Speaks Out on Social Media's Role in the Capitol Riots

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Prince Harry is well aware of the impact of social media.

The 36-year-old Duke of Sussex and his wife, Meghan Markle, have faced online hate from the beginning of their relationship. But now, Harry touched on how social media had a role, and should be held accountable, in the U.S. Capitol riots that occurred on Jan. 6.

"We have seen time and again what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded. There is no way to downplay this. There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism," Harry tells Fast Company in an interview published on Friday. "It is widely acknowledged that social media played a role in the genocide in Myanmar and was used as a vehicle to incite violence against the Rohingya people, which is a human rights issue. And in Brazil, social media provided a conduit for misinformation which ultimately brought destruction to the Amazon, which is an environmental and global health issue. In a way, taking a predominately hands-off approach to problems for so long is itself an exercise in power."

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, companies like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube blocked or limited Donald Trump's accounts to prevent any further violence after he shared a video addressing his supporters.

"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 says. "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."

"The magnitude of this cannot be overstated, as noted even by the defectors who helped build these platforms. It takes courage to stand up, cite where things have gone wrong, and offer proposals and solutions," he continues. "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."

Harry also shared how his outlook on social media has changed since the "well-documented online harassment" he and Meghan have faced in the U.K.

"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," he admits. "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."

He expresses that after what they experienced, it led them to hear from other people in more vulnerable positions about how they are being affected, "and how much of a need there is for real empathy and support," he notes.

"From an early age, the guiding principle in my life has been about the duty to truth, the pursuit of compassion, and the alleviation of suffering," he states. "My life has always been about trying to do my part to help those who need it most, and right now, we need this change -- because it touches nearly every single thing we do or are exposed to."

He also touched on recent reports that he and his wife were "quitting social media" and how it was "news" to them.

"We woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago to hear that a Rupert Murdoch newspaper said we were evidently quitting social media. That was ‘news’ to us," he cracks, adding, "Bearing in mind we have no social media to quit, nor have we for the past 10 months."

"The truth is, despite its well-documented ills, social media can offer a means of connecting and community, which are vital to us as human beings," he says. "We need to hear each other’s stories and be able to share our own. That’s part of the beauty of life. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that a reform of the digital space will create a world that’s all rainbows and sunshine, because that’s not realistic, and that, too, isn’t life."

He does add that he and Meghan "will revisit social media when it feels right for us." "Perhaps when we see more meaningful commitments to change or reform," he shares. "But right now we’ve thrown much of our energy into learning about this space and how we can help."

See more on how the couple plans to use social media for good in the video below.

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