News, Culture & Society

Prince Harry issues his fake news action plan

Prince Harry today helped to release a wide-ranging report on how to fight so-called fake news as part of his role as a ‘commissioner on disinformation’ with a Left-wing think tank in the US.

The Duke of Sussex is one of 15 commissioners and three co-chairmen who have conducted a six-month study into the digital ‘avalanche of misinformation’ on behalf of the Aspen Institute based in Washington DC.

And the 37-year-old royal revealed today on his Archewell website that the group has now outlined a ‘list of 15 specific recommendations for leaders to consider adopting across the public, private and non-profit sectors’.

The report calls for ‘increasing social media transparency and disclosure’, a ‘new proposal regarding social media platform immunity’ and ‘ideas for need reversing the collapse of local journalism and the erosion of trusted media’.

Other ‘solutions’ that were given in the report include pushing for ‘community-led methods for improving civic dialogue and resisting imbalances of information power’; and ‘accountability for ‘superspreaders’ of online lies’. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum in New York City on November 10

Prince Harry worked with the Aspen Institute in a role as a 'commissioner on disinformation' to fight so-called fake news

 Prince Harry worked with the Aspen Institute in a role as a ‘commissioner on disinformation’ to fight so-called fake news

Prince Harry has worked with Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of James Murdoch (together) who is the son of Rupert Mudoch

Prince Harry has worked with Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of James Murdoch (together) who is the son of Rupert Mudoch

Harry said today: ‘For the better part of a year, we at the Aspen Commission have met regularly to debate, discuss, and draft solutions to the mis- and disinformation crisis, which is a global humanitarian issue.

‘I hope to see the substantive and practical recommendations of our Commission taken up by the tech industry, the media industry, by policymakers, and leaders. This affects not some of us, but all of us.’

Aspen Commission on Information Disorder: What does the report say?

Below is a summary of the recommendations put forth by the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, as published on the Archewell website:

RECOMMENDATIONS TO INCREASE TRANSPARENCY 

PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH

  1. Implement protections for researchers and journalists who violate platform terms of service by responsibly conducting research on public data of civic interest.
  2. Require platforms to disclose certain categories of private data to qualified academic researchers, so long as that research respects user privacy, does not endanger platform integrity, and remains in the public interest.

HIGH REACH CONTENT DISCLOSURE

Create a legal requirement for all social media platforms to regularly publish the content, source accounts, reach and impression data for posts that they organically deliver to large audiences.

CONTENT MODERATION PLATFORM DISCLOSURE 

Require social media platforms to disclose information about their content moderation policies and practices, and produce a time-limited archive of moderated content in a standardized format, available to authorized researchers.

AD TRANSPARENCY

Require social media companies to regularly disclose, in a standardized format, key information about every digital ad and paid post that runs on their platforms.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO BUILD TRUST 

TRUTH AND TRANSFORMATION

Endorse efforts that focus on exposing how historical and current imbalances of power, access, and equity are manufactured and propagated further with mis- and disinformation — and on promoting community-led solutions to forging social bonds.

HEALTHY DIGITAL DISCOURSE 

Develop and scale communication tools, networks, and platforms that are designed to bridge divides, build empathy, and strengthen trust among communities.

WORKFORCE DIVERSITY 

Increase investment and transparency to further diversity at social media platform companies and news media as a means to mitigate misinformation arising from uninformed and disconnected centers of power.

LOCAL MEDIA INVESTMENT 

Promote substantial, long-term investment in local journalism that informs and empowers citizens, especially in underserved and marginalized communities.

ACCOUNTABILITY NORMS 

Promote new norms that create personal and professional consequences within communities and networks for individuals who willfully violate the public trust and use their privilege to harm the public.

ELECTION INFORMATION SECURITY 

Improve U.S. election security and restore voter confidence with improved education,transparency, and resiliency.

Recommendations to reduce harms

COMPREHENSIVE FEDERAL APPROACH 

Establish a comprehensive strategic approach to countering disinformation and the spread of misinformation, including a centralized national response strategy, clearly defined roles and responsibilities across the Executive Branch, and identified gaps in authorities and capabilities.

PUBLIC RESTORATION FUND

Create an independent organization, with a mandate to develop systemic misinformation countermeasures through education, research, and investment in local institutions.

CIVIC EMPOWERMENT

Invest and innovate in online education and platform product features to increase users’ awareness of and resilience to online misinformation.

SUPERSPREADER ACCOUNTABILITY 

Hold superspreaders of mis- and disinformation to account with clear, transparent, and consistently applied policies that enable quicker, more decisive actions and penalties, commensurate with their impacts — regardless of location, or political views, or role in society.

AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 230 OF THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT OF 1996

  1. Withdraw platform immunity for content that is promoted through paid advertising and post promotion.
  2. Remove immunity as it relates to the implementation of product features, recommendation engines, and design.

A summary of the report on the Archewell website was split into two sections – one about recommendations to ‘increase transparency’, and the other to ‘build trust’.

Under the transparency section, it recommended putting in ‘protections for researchers and journalists who violate platform terms of service by responsibly conducting research on public data of civic interest’.

It added that platforms should ‘disclose certain categories of private data to qualified academic researchers, so long as that research respects user privacy, does not endanger platform integrity, and remains in the public interest’.

The report also said that there should be a legal requirement for all social media platforms to ‘regularly publish the content, source accounts, reach and impression data for posts that they organically deliver to large audiences’.

Furthermore, it said social media platforms should have to ‘disclose information about their content moderation policies and practices, and produce a time-limited archive of moderated content in a standardised format, available to authorised researchers’.

In addition, on advert transparency, the report said social media firms should be required to ‘regularly disclose, in a standardised format, key information about every digital ad and paid post that runs on their platforms’.

In the second section on recommendations to build trust, the report referred to endorsing ‘efforts that focus on exposing how historical and current imbalances of power, access, and equity are manufactured and propagated further with mis- and disinformation — and on promoting community-led solutions to forging social bonds’.

It also wrote about developing and scaling ‘communication tools, networks, and platforms that are designed to bridge divides, build empathy, and strengthen trust among communities’.

On workplace diversity, the report said: ‘Increase investment and transparency to further diversity at social media platform companies and news media as a means to mitigate misinformation arising from uninformed and disconnected centers of power.’

And it called for promoting substantial, long-term investment in ‘local journalism that informs and empowers citizens, especially in underserved and marginalised communities’.

There were also calls to ‘improve US election security and restore voter confidence with improved education, transparency and resiliency’.

And the report said: ‘Hold superspreaders of mis- and disinformation to account with clear, transparent, and consistently applied policies that enable quicker, more decisive actions and penalties, commensurate with their impacts — regardless of location, or political views, or role in society.’

Finally, the report called for amendments to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996 in the US, saying: ‘Withdraw platform immunity for content that is promoted through paid advertising and post promotion. Remove immunity as it relates to the implementation of product features, recommendation engines, and design.’ 

In March, it was announced that Harry had been recruited to the think tank to carry out a study into ‘information disorder’, funded by a controversial billionaire.

It is being funded by US entrepreneur Craig Newmark who founded Craigslist, which was branded a ‘cesspool’ after it emerged hundreds of crimes were facilitated as a result of contact via the classified adverts website.

They included women exploited in a growing ‘sex for rent’ scandal during the pandemic. Craigslist has been accused of wiping out US newspapers by taking away classified adverts they rely on to stay afloat.

It is not clear if Harry is being paid or receiving expenses for his role with the organisation. Harry’s role as a ‘philanthropic leader’ is part-time but is understood to have involved ‘regular meetings’.

On the commission with him is Kathryn Murdoch. She is the wife of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s son James, who resigned last year from his father’s hugely successful media empire, whose titles include The Sun – which Harry is suing for alleged phone hacking.

James Murdoch, who was forced to stand down in the wake of the phone hacking scandal after publicly defending his father’s British newspapers, has since become one of his critics.

He has accused ‘media property owners’ of ‘spreading disinformation’. He and his wife have spent the last few years reinventing themselves as a Washington ‘power couple’, with Kathryn setting herself up as a critic of Donald Trump.

The Aspen Institute is one of the best known and best funded US think-tanks, drawing cash from rich donors and big businesses including Facebook. 

It says its mission is to build a ‘free, just, and equitable society’, and it is backed by a board of billionaire trustees.  

It was founded by Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke after he visited Aspen in Colorado in 1945, and thought it would be a good gathering place for leaders, artists and musicians to hold meetings about society and culture.

Four years later he made Aspen the site for a celebration of the 200th birthday of German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and created what is now the Aspen Institute.

In January, it launched the Commission on Information Disorder after being given £2.4million by Mr Newmark.

In March, it was announced that the Commission would be co-chaired by three people including former ABC, CBS and NBC anchor Katie Couric. In her new memoir, Ms Couric has admitted to editing out Ruth Bader Ginsburg's controversial comments from their 2016 interview (pictured) to 'protect' the late Supreme Court Justice

In March, it was announced that the Commission would be co-chaired by three people including former ABC, CBS and NBC anchor Katie Couric. In her new memoir, Ms Couric has admitted to editing out Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s controversial comments from their 2016 interview (pictured) to ‘protect’ the late Supreme Court Justice

The commission is being funded by American billionaire entrepreneur Craig Newmark, who founded Craigslist

The commission is being funded by American billionaire entrepreneur Craig Newmark, who founded Craigslist

The Aspen Institute is one of America's best known, and best funded think tanks. Its HQ in Washington DC is pictured

The Aspen Institute is one of America’s best known, and best funded think tanks. Its HQ in Washington DC is pictured

The idea of the commission is to ‘examine the nation’s public information crisis’ especially in light of the storming of the US Capitol building on January 6.

Who is on the Aspen panel with Prince Harry

The Commission on Information Disorder at the Aspen Institute in Washington was led by three co-chairs:

Katie Couric: Journalist and author who was the first woman to anchor a network evening news show by herself. She worked for NBC, CBS and ABC, and co-founded Stand Up To Cancer.

Chris Krebs: Former chief of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired last November soon after saying the US election, contrary to Donald Trump’s claims, was ‘the most secure’ in US history.

Rashad Robinson: Racial justice leader who is the president of Color Of Change, an organisation credited with getting tech platforms to implement anti-racist initiatives.

There are also 14 commissioners involved in the project in addition to Prince Harry as follows:

Marla Blow: Chief operating officer of the Skoll Foundation which invests in social entrepreneurs. She previously worked on the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth’s efforts for an inclusive economy.

Aaron Ford: Nevada Attorney General who has served in state and local government for nearly a decade. His recent work includes promoting the state’s 2020 election integrity and the safety of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Sue Gordon: A US national security leader and CIA officer of 30 years specialising in science and technology, who was a key advisor to Donald Trump and the National Security Council.

Yasmin Green: Director of research and development for Jigsaw, a unit within Alphabet Inc, formerly known as Google Ideas, who works in countering online radicalisation. 

Will Hurd: Recently stepped down after six years as a congressman, where he focused on cybersecurity and emerging technologies. A former CIA clandestine operations officer.

Jameel Jaffer: An expert in free speech, privacy, and security who is executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and used to work for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Garry Kasparov: Russian-born former world chess champion who now lives in New York and is founder of the Renew Democracy Initiative and chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.

Herb Lin: Information warfare expert who is senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford.

Kathryn Murdoch: Climate activist, co-founder of the Quadrivium grant-making foundation and daughter-in-law of Rupert Murdoch through her marriage to his son James Murdoch.

Safiya Umoja Noble: Researcher on the design of digital media platforms and their impact on society, who is co-founder of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry.

Deb Roy: Expert in applied machine learning, who is founding director of the MIT Center for Constructive Communication and was formerly chief media scientist for Twitter.

Alex Stamos: A tech security pioneer who is former chief security officer at Facebook, where he helped lead its response to Russia’s attack on the 2016 US election, and at Yahoo.

Kate Starbird: Researcher who looks at how tech and society interact and is associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington.

Amanda Zamora: News executive who used to work for the Texas Tribune, ProPublica, and the Washington Post. She is now co-founder and publisher of non-profit news group The 19th.

It has been carrying out a six-month project to develop recommendations for how government, private sector and society should respond the ‘modern-day crisis of faith in key institutions’.

In March, it was announced that the Commission would be co-chaired by former ABC, CBS and NBC anchor Katie Couric, cybersecurity expert Chris Krebs and civil rights leader Rashad Robinson.

Last month, Couric admitted to ‘protecting’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg from public backlash by cutting out negative comments she made about people who kneel during the national anthem.

The former Today show host revealed in her new book that she let her personal political views influence her editing decisions after her interview with the late Supreme Court justice in 2016.

In new memoir, Going There, Ms Couric wrote that she edited out a part where Ms Ginsburg said that those who kneel during the national anthem are showing ‘contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.’

The published story, which Ms Couric wrote for Yahoo! News in 2016, did include quotes from Ms Ginsburg saying refusing to stand for the anthem was ‘dumb and disrespectful’, but omitted more problematic remarks.

But Ms Couric wrote in her memoir that she thought the justice, who was 83 at the time, was ‘elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.’ 

The three co-chairs at the Aspen Institute were joined by 15 commissioners including Prince Harry, Nevada’s attorney general Aaron Ford and national security leader Sue Gordon.

Another was Kathryn Murdoch, co-founder of the Quadrivium grant-making foundation and daughter-in-law of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Describing herself as a ‘radical centrist’, Ms Murdoch – who is married to Rupert’s son James Murdoch – is also a major climate activist and democracy campaigner.

The commission met regularly in the six months from April and hosted briefings from experts to cover the ‘history, rise and current threat of disinformation’. 

Earlier this year, New York Times columnist David Brooks resigned from his position at the Institute after failing to disclose his salary for the role to the newspaper.

He was on the payroll of the Institute’s Weave project, which started in May 2018. The NYT said that while his work there was approved in 2018, the current opinion editors were unaware of his additional salary.

Mr Brooks had continued to write about Facebook for the NYT, even when the social media giant was among the donors to Weave – giving it £180,000.

The Institute is based in DC, but has other campuses in Aspen and Maryland, and partner institutes abroad in Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Paris, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, Prague and Bucharest.

It attracted controversy in May last year following reports it had accepted more than $8million in federal funds designated to help smaller businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The Institute did not violate the rules of the Paycheck Protection Program, a scheme managed by the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration.

But following an outcry from one of its own fellows, Dele Olojede, the Institute said it would return the money upon ‘listening to our communities and further reflection’. 

Last Wednesday, Harry told a New York gala honouring veterans that he was living the ‘American Dream’ after a recent ride in a car shaped like a hot dog.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the 2021 Salute to Freedom gala, held on the eve of Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day in the UK, and praised the ‘value’ of service members and their families.

Harry wore black tie, his medals and the cross of the Knight Commander of Royal Victorian Order and Meghan a red gown, while the pair adorned their outfits with a poppy.

The duke presented Intrepid Valor Awards to five service members, veterans and military families, and he spoke of how his military experience shaped the person he is today.

He told the audience at the Intrepid Museum: ‘It’s wonderful to be back on USS Intrepid a decade after my last visit – and a lot has changed since then. Just last week, I went for a ride on the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile – how’s that for living the American dream.

‘I’ve lived in the US for close to two years now. I have to say, witnessing your support for all those that put themselves in harm’s way in defence of our freedoms and liberties – it’s remarkable and hugely respected.

‘It reminds me of the deep reverence us Brits have for our military as well. The armed forces communities in both our countries share a special bond, and I’m grateful to have served in support of our joint allyship for many years.’ 

Harry served in the military for a decade and had two tours of Afghanistan, and has organised the Invictus Games for wounded and injured service members and veterans since 2014.

He added: ‘As we honour and reflect on Remembrance Day in the UK, which shares a date tomorrow with Veterans Day here in the US, my hope is for all of us to continue to support the wellbeing, and recognise the value of, our troops, veterans, and the entire military and service family. We and they are better for it.

‘I served 10 years in the military, including two tours of duty in Afghanistan – one as an FAC (Forward Air Controller) on the ground and in the dust with some of you, another as an Apache helicopter pilot in the air supporting and talking with you.

‘Nothing was more valuable than the time I got to spend with my soldiers in a shell scrape, eating an MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) in the back of a tank, thanks for the swaps, flying a mission overhead knowing those below were safer, or making each other laugh when it was needed the most.

‘My experience in the military made me who I am today, and I will always be grateful for the people I got to serve with – wherever in the world we were.’

Also last week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed one of their son Archie’s favourite songs as they visited Afghan refugees being housed at a US military base.

Harry and Meghan met the refugees during a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on Thursday, according to a spokesman for their foundation Archewell.

More than 10,000 Afghans evacuated when their country fell to the Taliban are being accommodated temporarily at a compound in the base as part of Task Force Liberty.

Harry and Meghan visited a classroom full of children learning English, and spoke to several pupils who practiced phrases such as “nice to meet you”.

Meghan was pictured holding up a red pen, as the children shouted out the English words for colours they were learning that day. The couple were also pictured pointing at their heads as they led the class in singing Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes.

They were told the song is one of the children’s favourites, and the couple said it is also a favourite of two-year-old Archie.

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