Meghan and Prince Harry have become increasingly focused on digital platforms and the impact they have on people in real life. Since August, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been publicly speaking about the need to change social media and the repercussion online hate can have on individuals and communities.
Yesterday, the couple led a 90-minute discussion, part of the Time 100 Talks series, focused on these topics and spoke to experts, journalists, tech giants and content creators.
But during the chat with Time CEO and editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal prior to the beginning of the panel, Prince Harry acknowledged neither he and Meghan are not experts in this field.
Asked why they decided to gather the experts attending the virtual summit and what connected them, the Duke said: “When you are driving a car and all the warning lights are going off, and there is smoke pouring out of the hood… you are not going to keep on driving, you are going to pull over.
“Now, in the olden days you could have probably popped the hood, have a look under and maybe, perhaps, fix it or at least have a rough idea of what is going on.
“But now every single one of these new cars has a shield over the top of it, and it means you can’t actually fix it if you want to fix it, you need to call the experts in.
“We are not experts in this field, by no stretch of imagination.
“So for us, to be able to convene the experts and say ‘this doesn’t feel
right, and you guys know it is not right, how can we explain this to people, how can we make them more aware of the problems’, because from a branding prospective, from the outside, it all looks great.”
This confession comes after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had been criticised by a few royal watchers on social media, who accused the couple of not having the “credentials” needed to lead a discussion on the digital world.
After the Time talk was announced, Twitter user Fi said: “No qualifications to speak about, advise, or endorse literally anything, in any way shape or form.”
Eliza questioned the couple’s “credentials” to lead a panel focused on the digital world.
She wrote: “What field is Harry and Meghan in exactly? I’m curious about their credentials.
“I hope Harry and Meg forego their titles for the occasion.
“Each time they blurt out opinions under their title it is deceiving the public as if they have the royal seal of approval.”
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Similarly, Twitter user Madalyn said: “I’m interested to see their credentials listed whenever they’re booked to do some event.
“‘The Duke/Duchess of Sussex’ is not a legitimate credential.
“There will always be problems when people with no training or experience are given a platform.”
Royal fan and PR expert Royal Tea also wrote on Twitter: “The Sussexes are apparently ‘expert’ enough on this topic to lead an entire digital event – but how??
“They’ve done very little publicly to establish real credibility outside of paid speaking opportunities and vague mentions of ‘conversations’ with actual experts.”
During their chat with Mr Felsenthal, Meghan revealed they started to learn more in depth about the online world in January, after realising it affects all
the issues they have been trying to tackle over the past few years.
Meghan said she and Harry have “connected the dots” over the past couple of years and noticed the impact online communities have on people can undo much of the work done on female empowerment, mental health or climate change, which brought them to becoming increasingly interested in the online world.
She added: “We have been on a journey to learn as much as we can since, really, January this year, and are happy and privileged to be doing this with you, to bring to you some of the people that we have been learning from and to share that with your viewers and your readers.”
In February, the couple visited Stanford University for a brainstorming session during which they spoke with professors in the tech field.
In August, in a blistering op-ed in which he accused social media of stoking the crisis of hate, truth and health, the Duke of Sussex revealed their conversation at the Californian university focused on changing social media platforms into a more compassionate and positive reality.
The Duchess of Sussex touched upon social media addiction on her second appearance at the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit.
She said: “There are very few things in this world where you call the person who’s engaging with it a user.
“People who are addicted to drugs are called users and people who are on social media are called users.
“There is something algorithmically that is in there that is creating this obsession that I think is very unhealthy for a lot of people.
“I have a lot of concerns for people that have become obsessed with it and it is so much a part of our daily culture for so many people that it is an addiction.”