- The Duke of Cambridge Prince William criticised big tech for failing to deal with problems like cyberbullying and hate-speech profligating on their platforms in a speech at the BBC, the Telegraph reports.
- The Duke heads up an anti-cyberbullying taskforce, and has dealt with companies including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Apple, and Google, but has found their response to the problems at hand frustrating.
- “The noise of shareholders, bottom lines, and profits is distracting them from the values that made them so successful in the first place,” the Prince said.
Prince William rebuked big tech firms for failing to adequately respond to problems on their platforms like cyberbullying and hate-speech, the Telegraph reports.
In a speech at the BBC ahead of the launch of its KOW app, designed to prevent children from sending or receiving troubling material on their devices, William accused the tech industry of failing to live up to its responsibilities.
The Prince has been leading a taskforce to combat cyberbullying, but said he has found tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Apple and Google, unwilling to fully cooperate.
“What I found very quickly though was that the sector did not want to own this issue,” he said.
“I heard doubts being cast about the scale of the problem. I was told that companies were already doing plenty and just needed more credit for it. I saw denials issued about the prevalence of young children on some of our most popular platforms. And crucially I heard over and over again that a collective approach – across the industry, with charity partners, ISPs, researchers, and parents – just wouldn’t work,” the Prince added.
He said that he is “worried though that our technology companies still have a great deal to learn about the responsibilities that come with their significant power,” saying that on the issues of fake news, extremism, polarisation, hate speech, trolling, mental health, privacy, and bullying, “our tech leaders seem to be on the back foot.”
He suggested that tech companies’ self-image is muddying their perception of the problems at hand. “Their self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems they are creating,” he said.
The drive towards profit, he said, also poses a problem. “The noise of shareholders, bottom lines, and profits is distracting them from the values that made them so successful in the first place.”
The Prince said that he, like many, had been optimistic ad the advent of social media. But he spelled out the concerns about the real-world harm these platforms have been seen to facilitate. “We have seen that the technology that can allow you to develop an online community around a shared hobby or interest can also be used to organise violence,” he said.
“The tools that we use to congratulate each other on milestones and successes can also be used to normalise speech that is filled with bile and hate,” he added.
He criticised big tech for being, “resigned to a posture with governments and regulators that will be defined by conflict and discord,” and urged them to see, “It does not have to be this way.”
Business Insider has contacted Twitter, Snapchat, Apple, and Google for comment. Facebook declined to comment.