On Thursday, Netflix dropped the final three episodes of Harry & Meghan, their six-part limited documentary series detailing the couple’s love story, marriage, and transition from full-time British royals to semi-normal California family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a variety of shocking claims in the series, including their belief that they were “fed to the wolves” by palace staff members and allowed to suffer intense media scrutiny without help from any members of the royal family. The couple said this lack of support, combined with Meghan’s declining mental health, forced them to step down as senior royals and move their family, first to Canada, and then to California. In addition to the emotions and complicated relationships surrounding their departure, the documentary also focuses on Meghan’s treatment online, highlighting how difficult it has been for the couple to be on the receiving end of vicious, racist rhetoric — which didn’t stop when they hung up their royal duties.
“Misinformation is a global humanitarian crisis,” Harry says in the documentary, while Meghan listens in. “We know that a small group of accounts are allowed to create a huge amount of chaos online and without any consequence whatsoever.”
The limited series highlighted attacks against Meghan, including thousands of accounts that made racist remarks about her children’s skin tone and even implied Meghan faked her pregnancy. Christopher Bouzy, founder of tech research firm BotSentinel, was featured in the documentary and tells Rolling Stone that the online campaign against Meghan is one of the worst he’s ever encountered. In a 2021 report, BotSentinel found that in a group of 114,000 tweets focused on anti-Meghan accounts, 70 percent of the hateful content came from just 83 accounts. Though many of these accounts were suspended after the report came out, Bouzy says social media platforms like Twitter and Youtube should be held accountable for not actively disincentivizing hate with demonetization and outright removal.
“This is a coordinated, targeted harassment campaign,” Bouzy says. “This campaign was insidious. And it’s still happening.”
YouTube and Twitter did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
According to Bouzy, the “coordinated campaign” against Meghan was made worse by the close interaction between hate accounts and royal experts, who he said often amplified racist or harmful rumors about Meghan. Bouzy added that the same tactics used by hate accounts and trolls are now being applied to Meghan’s work with Netflix.
“In regards to the trolls and the single-purpose hate accounts, they have been consistently going after her for four-plus years,” Bouzy says. “And when a company associated with them announce [a project], they go after that company and anyone that tries to associate with the couple.”
Bouzy points to the YouTube comment sections underneath the official trailers for the Harry & Meghan series, where users have begun posting copypasta — a popular way to spam content by inundating it with similar messaging. A majority of the posts use the phrases “l love the part” and “brings a tear to my left eye,” to post sarcastic comments mocking Meghan and Harry’s involvement in the show. The phrases mean nothing on their own but are a way for online users to combine spam efforts while putting their own flair on their hate comments. BotSentinel also analyzed at least 1,400 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and found evidence that 85 percent of the accounts had the Harry & Meghan series as their only review.
In September, following another BotSentinel report and a request for inquiry from Rolling Stone, YouTube pulled down at least two videos for violating the site’s policy on harassment and bullying, and demonetized a creator accused of posting policy-violating threats against Meghan and Harry. But Bouzy says as long as platforms aren’t proactive in removing hate accounts, they should be held accountable.
“The platforms are complicit, ” Bouzy tells Rolling Stone. “Whether you’re a fan of hers or not, Meghan is a money-generating machine. These people are creating content and these channels because they know that they can capitalize off of this. If YouTube were to say enough is enough and demonetize them, a lot of this stuff would not be happening.”
Bouzy says people should take into account the mental effect such consistent online threats have on a person, even if they’re a public figure. Meghan echoes this sentiment in the documentary, saying the sight of an online death threat made her fear for the safety of her children at night.
“That’s what’s actually out in the world, because of people creating hate,” she says, through tears. “And I’m a mom. You are making people want to kill me. It’s not just a tabloid. It’s not just some story. You are making me scared. And you’ve created it for what? Because you’re bored or because it sells your papers? It’s real, what you’re doing. And that’s the piece I don’t think people fully understand.”