Prince Harry’s recent article in Fast Company spells out his and Meghan’s concerns about the online world’s ability to spread misinformation instead of truth, and to weaponise speech. In the article Harry goes on to say “advancements in technology and media have outgrown many of the antiquated guardrails that once ensured they were being designed and used appropriately”.
Many would agree with his statements that the digital landscape is unwell and that online platforms are contributing to a crisis of truth. What is interesting is that he and Meghan decided to use their celebrity in a very pragmatic way by calling companies and asking them to withhold their social media advertising dollars during July. In doing so, they highlight the only real way to get a sector or company to take notice of a problem and make changes is by reducing its profits, even if only for a month. When the leaders of companies aren’t intrinsically motivated to change there is little evidence that anything other than loss of revenue, brand or reputation will trigger transformation.
I applaud Meghan’s and Prince Harry’s willingness to have robust and difficult conversations with these business leaders. It is not the first time they have demonstrated a willingness to take risks. And while many may say that the couple takes these risks from a position of privilege and financial security, it must be pointed out that most other people in similarly secure positions don’t risk the chance of rejection by their prestigious networks and tribes. In the main, people’s concerns about loss of status within their peer group mean they keep their mouths shut and conform. With this very public stance the couple supported the Stop Hate For Profit campaign.
Harry voices his concern that we have all become ‘products’ of this digital space, which is very true. And the micro-targeting abilities of these platforms means we are susceptible to their coercive forces; as he says the cost is high.
But such toxic business behaviours and the resulting, tragic effects on the physical world are not exclusive to the digital landscape. And, while calling on business leaders, heads of major corporations, and chief marketing officers to ask them to withhold their advertising dollars for a month is commendable, asking these same business people to change toxic practices in their own companies would take the discussion to a whole new level; one I would like to think that Meghan and Harry have the tenacity to do. Could this courageous couple drive change in another industry that is not used to being questioned and doesn’t seem to have much capacity for self-reflection? Namely the luxury sector.