Sir Elton John demands social media companies do more to fight homophobia, AIDS stigma

Sir Elton John used a speech in London Friday to ask tech giants to help combat AIDS worldwide and fight the stigma associated with the disease.

"We can only realise his vision if the tech companies step up at the moment," he said to the audience.

"I don't think they are doing nearly enough. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cannot pretend they are purely private enterprises. I believe they have a public role and a public responsibility.

"Imagine if they put their might behind debates that could counter ignorance. In so many countries homosexuality gets wrapped up with paedophilia even though there is no basis in fact for this association. Homophobia fuels shame, isolation, cruelty and anger and therefore HIV. If we found ways to automatically respond to hatred with fact the truth could be all the way round the world before falsehood has even got its boots on."

In the Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on HIV, the legendary British musician also explained why he continues playing shows in Russia.

"I could boycott it because of the homophobic legislation. I could tweet or share my views from the comfort and safety of my computer at home, but I believe it is better to go and talk to people on both sides of the argument. To build bridges and not walls."

The lecture was the latest in a series of speeches arranged by NAT (National AIDS Trust) in memory of its patron, Princess Diana. In his speech, Sir Elton saluted the late royal's impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"A year ago I found myself standing in the garden of the (AIDS centre) London Lighthouse, not far from where we are today with Prince Harry. At the height of the AIDS crisis in this city, the Lighthouse was the sole beacon of hope. For people with HIV and AIDS it was the light that shone in the dark. Princess Diana visited often publicly and privately. If you went to the top of the Lighthouse today and you looked out over this city you would see that its AIDS landscape has changed incredibly."

Sir Elton addressed an audience made up of politicians, health workers, and people living with HIV at the city's Institut Francais.

The musician spoke of the massive progress fighting the disease in the city, before urging attendees to step away from social media and make personal connections instead.

"Social media has become too often an arena which amplifies all our conflicts and builds walls between us. Predators we thought had disappeared has crawled out from under its stones. People are using the privilege of anonymity to say hurtful and vile things that they would never dream of uttering in person or to boast about their privilege. To illustrate the us and them divide in ways we thought we'd left behind a century ago. We are in real danger of losing the essential element of human connection in our society."

The speech was delivered in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.