The Duke of Sussex has warned that “what happens online does not stay online” as he said time was running out for urgent social media reform.
The Duke, 36, suggested that the magnitude of the problem could no longer be overstated, claiming that everyone had been “deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space.”
He accused social media platforms of shunning their responsibilities, highlighting the role that they played in the recent US Capitol riots as well as the treatment of the Rohingya population in Myanmar.
“There is no way to downplay this,” he told Fast Company website.
“There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organised on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism.
"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 Duke, who along with the Duchess of Sussex has been campaigning for a fairer and more compassionate digital world, said the harassment they had experienced themselves had been triggered by a “false narrative” peddled online.
“What happens online does not stay online—it spreads everywhere, like wildfire: into our homes and workplaces, into the streets, into our minds,” he warned.
“The question really becomes about what to do when news and information sharing is no longer a decent, truthful exchange, but rather an exchange of weaponry.”
He suggested that aside from sweeping reform by social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, individuals could also play their part.
“It doesn’t have to be that complicated,” he said.
“Consider setting limits on the time you spend on social media, stop yourself from endlessly scrolling, fact-check the source and research the information you see, and commit to taking a more compassionate approach and tone when you post or comment.
“These might seem like little things, but they add up.”