While Prince Harry is accustomed to speaking out about important social issues, he rarely discusses his personal life in public. That changed this week when Harry felt it was necessary to issue an unusual — but important — press statement.
"His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment," a statement released from Harry's spokesperson read. "Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."
According to the statement, Markle — an American actress — and her family have been subjected to harassment from paparazzi and other members of the press. The statement concluded with a request that online commenters take a step back and "those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done."
While what happened to Markle might seem like an isolated incident that only affects celebrities, the fact is that online harassment isn't uncommon. A 2015 report found that 73 percent of women have experienced some form of cyber violence, and the effects of this trend could result in mental health complications.
The good news is that society is now taking a stand against digital harassment, including the formation of new laws to stop this harmful practice. News organizations are rethinking their comment sections. Last month, Facebook launched a set of guidelines to help empower women to fight back against digital harassment. Twitter also seems to be taking a stand, developing a new feature to allow users to remove tweets containing certain words and phrases from their timelines. The new policies are a much-needed step, as evidenced by an August editorial by the staff of Wired:
"Companies that created the tools that let us communicate: no more passes," the piece, positioned as an open letter to the Internet, reads. "You have the ability to help people feel safe in their daily online lives... We just want to make sure we work together — with you, and the people who built you and maintain you and depend on you — to become the place you were supposed to be, and be better than you are."
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