London: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spent the past month contacting the leaders of major corporations, lobbying them to withdraw advertising spending from "lawless" social media companies such as Facebook.
Prince Harry revealed that he and his wife Meghan had set their sights on "remodelling the architecture" of social media, warning that sweeping change was needed to protect users' mental health and stop the spread of misinformation.
Britain’s Prince Harry: fed up with the effects of social media.Credit:AP
In a 1400-word column for Fast Company, a US business magazine, he said the cost of using social media was "very high", with personal data traded for profit in a "relatively lawless space".
He questioned what susceptibility to "the coercive forces in digital spaces" would mean for the next generation, adding: "As a father, this is especially concerning to me." The issue will become one of the main focuses of the couple's longer-term work through Archewell, their non-profit organisation.
The article, for which the Duke was not paid, is considered an indication of the couple's future direction as they establish their own life in Los Angeles, the Telegraph understands.
The decision to focus on online behaviour was inspired in part by the work both have undertaken in recent years on mental health and more recently, by the civil and racial justice campaigns following the death of George Floyd.
Meghan Markle has concerns about social media.Credit:AP
The Duke warned in his article that online communities should be "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".
He wrote: "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."
He called for meaningful digital reform, adding: "We've spoken with leaders across the racial justice movement, experts in humane tech, and advocates of mental health.
"And the collective opinion is abundantly clear: We do not have the luxury of time."
Their intervention coincided with the launch of the US-based Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which is putting pressure on Facebook to tackle hate speech.
In recent weeks, more than 1000 companies, including Adidas, Ford and Unilever, have withdrawn their advertising spend as a result.
While the Sussexes support the campaign, their own work on the issue will be independent.
The Duke said that although social media was a seemingly free resource, the "price we're all paying is much higher than it appears".
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