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Prince Harry calls for social media reform, compares misinformation to lead poisoning

In a new editorial, the Duke of Sussex calls on social media platforms, policy makers and advertisers to do more to combat online hate and misinformation.

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

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In a new piece written for Fast Company, Prince Harry is calling on social media platforms to redesign themselves in the wake of "a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth."

As a number of prominent advertisers boycotted Facebook during the month of July, the Duke of Sussex and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were on the phone with numerous business leaders and heads of major corporations in the social media space, Harry said.

"Researchers I've spoken with are studying how social media affects people -- particularly young people," Harry wrote, "and I believe the book of data that we will look back on one day will be incredibly troubling."

Specifically, Harry likens misinformation on social media to lead poisoning, and points out that corporations presented with the dangers of lead in the 1970s were initially resistant to the idea of reforming things like paint, plumbing and gasoline to make them safer. Eventually, the mounting environmental and health concerns led to new standards.

"We knew something was harmful to the health of our children, so we made the necessary changes to keep them safe, healthy, and well," he writes.

Harry doesn't argue for any specific reforms but instead calls on leaders from social media to do a better job of being a part of the solution.

"There are billions of people right now -- in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives -- who rely on algorithmically driven information feeds to make judgments about fact vs. fiction, about truth vs. lies," he writes. "One could argue that access to accurate information is more important now than any other time in modern history. And yet, the very places that allow disinformation to spread seem to throw their arms up when asked to take responsibility and find solutions."

Advertisers have a role to play, too, Harry writes.

"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," he says. "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."

Harry finishes by calling social media "a vast nervous system" that reflects the good in people but also magnifies the bad.

"We can -- and must -- encourage these platforms to redesign themselves in a more responsible and compassionate way," he writes. "The world will feel it, and we will all benefit from it."