Prince Harry blames social media for Capitol attack, Myanmar genocide, Amazon destruction

"We are losing loved ones to conspiracy theories."
"We are losing loved ones to conspiracy theories." Photo credit: Getty.

Prince Harry has attacked social media platforms, blaming them for this month's Capitol attack as well as other violent altercations around the world. 

In an interview with Fast Company, an American business magazine, Harry, who is currently based in the United States with his wife Meghan, said there are real-world consequences of misinformation spreading online. 

He said "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 prince goes on to link misinformation online to riots in Washington DC earlier this month, in which at least five people died.

"There is no way to downplay this. There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organised on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism," he said.

The Capitol siege on January 6 came about after US President Donald Trump told his supporters at a rally that they should "fight" and march on the historic monument as lawmakers attempted to certify the 2020 election results. In the months prior, Trump and his associates had spread baseless conspiracy theories about the election results and used social media to invite people to his "wild" event. 

Following the attack and Trump's lacklustre condemnation of his supporters, he was suspended from Twitter, Facebook and numerous other social media platforms out of concern he must incite further violence. 

Prince Harry also pointed to other recent events which he said social media had contributed to.

"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," he said.

"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."

Harry said the topic was particularly important to him as he has been frustrated by false narratives spread about him and Meghan that led to harassment. 

"Everyone has been deeply affected by the current consequences of the digital space. It could be as individual as seeing a loved one go down the path of radicalisation or as collective as seeing the science behind the climate crisis denied," he said.

"We are all vulnerable to it, which is why I don't see it as a tech issue, or a political issue - it's a humanitarian issue."

He wants to see more accountability for online actions, greater compassion from users, and for people to take responsibility for how they interact with technology. 

"To start, it doesn't have to be that complicated. 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."