Prince Harry today welcomed Google into his Travalyst sustainable travel initiative in a move that will raise eyebrows given his vocal criticism of big tech.
The Duke of Sussex has previously slammed US technology giants as ‘incredibly powerful and consolidated gatekeepers’ and criticised disinformation being spread on social media about issues like climate change.
Travalyst said partnering with Google, which also owns video sharing site YouTube, was a ‘significant step forward’ as it praised the firm for its ‘commitment to helping consumers make more sustainable travel choices’.
Following the storming of the US Capitol in January, Harry criticised social media companies for their ‘hands-off’ towards disinformation. YouTube itself has repeatedly come in for direct criticism from researchers for hosting falsehoods.
Prince Harry’s Travalyst organisation has now welcomed Google as a partner. Pictured: Harry at a launch event for the organisation in 2019
Harry told Harpers Bazaar: ‘It is widely acknowledged that social media played a role in the genocide in Myanmar and was used as a vehicle to incite violence against the Rohingya people, which is a human rights issue.
‘And in Brazil, social media provided a conduit for misinformation which ultimately brought destruction to the Amazon, which is an environmental and global health issue.
‘In a way, taking a predominately hands-off approach to problems for so long is itself an exercise in power.’
In January last year, US non-profit Avaaz found that YouTube’s algorithm was promoting videos refuting the reality of man-made climate change.
Many of these videos were accompanied by adverts, meaning the site was effectively ‘monetising’ global warming denialism, the report said.
YouTube was also among the platforms blamed for spreading false claims of fraud prior to the US election.
It attracted similar criticism during the 2020 elections in Myanmar after videos spread on the platform claiming election interference.
YouTube was slammed for its light-touch approach and only appeared to block false election claims that people complained about, or if the material otherwise violated its broader guidelines on hate speech and harassment, researchers said.
‘When it comes to hate speech and disinformation in Myanmar, YouTube is the new frontier,’ said Victoire Rio, an adviser at a civil society group studying social media, said at the time.
YouTube did not respond to those criticisms but said it consistently enforced its guidelines and had deleted more than 1.8 million channels for policy violations in the third quarter of 2020, including more than 54,000 for hate speech.
Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer at Google, said after today’s announcement: ‘Addressing the challenge of climate change requires us to find solutions at scale, and this is especially true when it comes to travel and tourism.
‘By working with Travalyst and our industry partners, we aim to build tools and technology that enable travelers and businesses around the world to prioritize sustainability.’
MailOnline has contacted Google for comment about its approach to misinformation.
The statement accompanying Travalyst’s announcement of the partnership today
This is not the first time Harry has found himself working with Silicon Valley giants.
The Duke of Sussex was said to have given a passionate speech about saving the planet while being watched by Naomi Campbell and Leonardo DiCaprio, among other celebrities and power brokers.
Travalyst’s stated mission is to make the tourism industry more sustainable make it easier for travellers to make eco-friendly choices.
It has brought together some of the biggest operators in the travel industry – including Visa, Booking.com and Skyscanner – to help tourists pick low carbon options more easily and chose destinations that will have more benefit to local communities.
The name is a mixture of the words ‘travel’ and ‘catalyst’, with Harry explaining when he launched it in September 2019 that it came from ‘viewing our role in sustainable travel as catalysts to accelerate positive changes in travel’.
Last year it emerged Travalyst altered the wording of it’s website to reflect the step back that Prince Harry took from royal life, replacing that Travalyst is ‘led by HRH The Duke of Sussex’ on its homepage with simply ‘led by The Duke of Sussex’.
Its work has taken a hit after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic halted the majority of international leisure travel, causing what Harry dubbed a crisis of ‘no tourists and therefore no income’.
At a global summit in July, the Duke said: ‘None of us here could have predicted the global shock and impact that Covid-19 is having on the world, especially on travel and the local communities who depend on tourism.
‘Many of you joining us today rely on visitors for your livelihoods. Businesses are hurting significantly, and I’ve heard from some of you who are currently struggling to put food on your family’s tables and make ends meet because there are no tourists and therefore no income. We need to build back, but we need to build back better.’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be in New York today to hold a meeting with the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, their biographer Omid Scobie has claimed
Today, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be in New York to hold a meeting with the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.
Finding Freedom author Omid Scobie said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are making their first public trip since moving to California, will join the mayor and the Governor of New York Kathy Hochul at the One World Observatory.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan will begin their New York adventure tomorrow morning, September 23, when they join NYC Mayor @BilldeBlasio and @GovKathyHochul for an 8am visit to the @OneWorldNYC Observatory.’
The observatory is located on floors 100-102 of the One World Trade Center, which is America’s tallest building and the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex.
When in New York, Harry, 37, and Meghan, 40, will also broadcast from Central Park for the Global Citizen Live event on Saturday, as they ‘continue their urgent work with world leaders in the pursuit of global vaccine equity to end the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere,’ said the organisation’s website.
It marks the first occasion the duo have appeared in public together since stepping back from royal duties and moving to California last year.
In May, Harry and Meghan acted as Campaign Chairs of Vax Live, which ‘aims to inspire vaccine confidence worldwide and help get the COVID-19 vaccines to everyone, everywhere’ – according to Global Citizen.
Saturday’s event will be part of a number of shows being held in cities as varied as London to Lagos by the organisation, with artists like Ed Sheeran, Sir Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Metallica and Coldplay scheduled to perform.
The Global Citizen Live campaign is calling on G7 countries and the European Union to share at least one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses with those most in need and support calls for a waiver on vaccine intellectual property rights.
It also marks the return to work for the Duke and Duchess, who have taken several months off following the birth of their daughter Lilibet in May.
The Sussexes appeared on the cover of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue this month
Meghan has previously made several high profile trips to New York to visit friends in recent years.
The Duchess celebrated the impending birth of her firstborn son Archie by flying to the Big Apple by private jet in 2019, provoking outcry with the five-day baby shower celebration. Around 20 friends attended, including Serena Williams and Amal Clooney.
Months later, she visited the state again for a flying trip away to support her close friend Serena Williams in the US Open final.
The appearance from the royal couple comes after they graced the cover of Time magazine as they were named among the world’s 100 most influential people.
Prince Harry and Meghan said they were ‘humbled’ to be the cover stars of Time magazine’s 2021 list in a feature that includes an ‘awkward’ photoshoot and a gushing tribute from a friend who praises them for ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’ and ‘running toward the struggle’ rather than living a quiet life in their California mansion.
The US publication released a glossy and heavily-airbrushed cover on Harry’s 37th birthday showing the Duke of Sussex stood behind his wife with his arms on her right shoulder in the ‘icons’ section of the annual line-up alongside Naomi Osaka, Dolly Parton, Britney Spears and Alexei Navalny.
One critic claimed the cover photo reflected the power dynamic in the relationship, because Meghan is in front of her husband, tweeting: ‘Wow, this photo speaks volumes. There is no hiding who’s in control’.
But Time’s picture editor, Dilys Ng, who made the final decision on the cover image, said the portrait captures the Sussexes’ ‘powerful dynamic as equal partners’.
When in New York, Harry, 37, and Meghan (pictured together in March 2019), 40, will also broadcast from Central Park for the Global Citizen Live event on Saturday
The couple responded to being named on the list of the world’s most distinguished people with a post on their Archewell website that read: ‘Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are not only humbled to be part of this year’s TIME 100 through the words of friend and partner José Andrés, but to also write in praise of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the publication’s annual list of Most Influential People.’
The glossy photos of the Sussexes are accompanied by a profile, branded sycophantic by critics, written by their friend and chef Mr Andrés, whose charity World Central Kitchen is loved by the Sussexes and supported financially by their Archewell foundation in India and the Caribbean.
He wrote: ‘In a world where everyone has an opinion about people they don’t know, the duke and duchess have compassion for the people they don’t know. They don’t just opine. They run toward the struggle.’ Mr Andrés said the couple are ‘blessed through birth and talent, and burned by fame’, adding: ‘It would be much safer to enjoy their good fortune and stay silent. That’s not what Harry and Meghan do, or who they are’.
On the cover Harry is dressed in all black and Meghan in all white on a terrace at their $14.65million mansion and then in green smiling at eachother and holding hands while walking through their estate in Montecito, California.
In another image they are in matching grey office-style clothes next to a window in outfits chosen by celebrity stylists Clare and Nina Hallwroth, who have recently dressed Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, in pictures taken by Serbian Pari Dukovic. But one critic, a fellow photographer, tweeted: ‘Terrible retouching job. They look CGI’.
Others wrote: ‘This photo looks photoshopped. Also, the way they are positioned is very revealing: it’s the Meghan show and Harry is just the supporting actor’. One critic said: ‘Harry looks completely awkward peering behind his wife like this’.