Prince Harry has gone so far as to compare social media to lead paint in a scathing op-ed published in Fast Company.
In the piece, Prince Harry revealed that he and wife Meghan Markle had personally called leaders and CMOs of global brands to dissuade them from advertising on social media platforms, as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which has already resulted in $US7 billion in withheld ad spend to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
“Some may ask why a change campaign would take aim at online advertising,” Harry said.
“Well, many of us love and enjoy social media. It’s a seemingly free resource for connecting, sharing, and organising. But it’s not actually free; the cost is high. Every time you click, they learn more about you. Our information, private data, and unknown habits are traded on for advertising space and dollars.”
Harry calls for a complete “remodel” of social media and the wider online community, which takes a stronger stance against hate speech and misinformation.
And according to the Prince, it is brands that purchase online ads that can create this change.
“This remodeling must include industry leaders from all areas drawing a line in the sand against unacceptable online practices as well as being active participants in the process of establishing new standards for our online world,” he said.
“Companies that purchase online ads must also recognise that our digital world has an impact on the physical world—on our collective health, on our democracies, on the ways we think and interact with each other, on how we process and trust information.”
Harry also suggested that with the benefit of hindsight, we as a society might look back on our current approach to social media with regret, comparing this to research into lead in the 1970s.
“In the 1970s, there was a groundbreaking study on the societal effects of lead exposure and kids. The research found a clear connection between lead accumulation in children and their mental development,” he said.
“There’s no debate over the dangers of lead today, but at the time, the development was met with strong resistance from industry leaders (lead was used widespread in products such as gas, house paint, and water pipes).
“Eventually, sweeping health and environmental reforms were put in place to change this. We knew something was harmful to the health of our children, so we made the necessary changes to keep them safe, healthy, and well.”
the solution? Advertising
With digital ad spend set to eclipse traditional media ad spend in the near future, Harry urged those in power to spend wisely.
“So there is huge value in advertisers sitting at the table with advocacy leaders, with policy leaders, with civil society leaders, in search of solutions that strengthen the digital community while protecting its free and open nature,” Harry said.
“For companies that purchase online ads, it is one thing to unequivocally disavow hate and racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism, dangerous misinformation, and a well-established online culture that promotes violence and bigotry.
“It is another thing for them to use their leverage, including through their advertising dollars, to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division.”
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