Taking part in a virtual discussion about misinformation entitled “The Internet Lie Machine” organised by Wired magazine, Prince Harry has suggested 'Megxit' attacks on Meghan Markle are misogynistic.
The duke said from his own experience, he and his wife are targeted by a small group of accounts on social media.
He said: “More than 70% of the hate speech about my wife on Twitter could be traced to fewer than 50 accounts.”
Megxit – a word used to described the couple’s departure from royal duties – is a “misogynistic term” that was created by an online troll before it entered mainstream usage, Harry said.
Asked about “censorship” and the balance between free speech and potentially harmful content on social media, Harry said “the free speech argument is somewhat a distraction from the main problem”.
He said: “As we’ve already established, this isn’t just a social media problem, it’s a media problem.
“I’ve grown up learning that news should be sacred ground.”
Harry said it does not take Succession’s fictional media mogul Logan Roy or media magnate Rupert Murdoch to “understand that clickbait is the descendant of targeted advertising”.
He warned in many cases “the truth is paywalled but the lies are free”.
He said while a lie on social media is dangerous, “when that same lie is given credibility by journalists or publishers, it’s unethical and as far as I’m concerned an abuse of power”.
Harry questioned who was holding the media to account, claiming “it’s kind of become a bit of a digital dictatorship”.
He suggested the solution could be to invest in and support “honest journalists” who “respect and uphold the values of journalism, not the pirates with the press cards who have hijacked the most powerful industry, the freest industry in the world”.
Harry said “real journalists” have the power to “tackle racism, misogyny, lies, all of it” from “within their own system”.
He said he would like to see journalists investigate their “unethical, immoral and dishonest” colleagues.
“We can fix this, we have to fix this, but we need everyone’s help,” Harry said.
The royal said it would be “impossible” to get users to quit social media platforms “given how addictive they are”.
“But it’s about being aware enough to be able to protect yourself from the harms and know when you are being used,” Harry said.
He was joined on the panel by Stanford Internet Observatory Technical research manager Renee DiResta and Aspen Commission on Information Disorder co-chair and Colour Of Change president Rashad Robinson for a talk with Wired editor at large Steven Levy.