Britain’s Duke of Cambridge has launched a full-throated attack on US tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google in a speech at the BBC, an outgrowth of his leadership of a task force aimed at fighting back against cyberbullying.
In his speech, Prince William lamented that over-attention to profits and business concerns is outweighing meaningful change on platforms like Facebook, which was also the focus of a major New York Times investigative piece that rocked media circles this week. The result of six months of work, the paper painted a picture of a slow-moving tech giant encumbered by inaction at the top, with leaders more focused on how to manage the crises of fake news and privacy issues than actually solving the problems.
It might sound strange to hear a British royal weigh in on such matters, let alone one as high-profile as Prince William, who almost comes off sounding like an anti-tech activist.
“Our technology companies,” the prince argued, “still have a great deal to learn about the responsibilities that come with their significant power.” And when it comes to things like hate speech, privacy and the spread of fake news, “our tech leaders seem to be on the back foot.”
As reported by The Guardian, the prince went on to suggest “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 newspaper goes on to report that the prince admitted to being optimistic at first about social media, before going on to raise a litany of concerns that outweigh his positivity. The Guardian noted that he criticized big tech firms like Facebook 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.”
The knives, it seems, are out against Big Tech on both sides of the pond these days.