By Amy Cheng
Washington – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has said that she was the “most trolled person” in the world, referring to the online abuse she received in 2019, a year she partially spent on maternity leave.
Now, a report released by Twitter analytics provider Bot Sentinel indicates Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, were the target of a co-ordinated hate campaign on that platform, bolstering the couple’s claim of widespread harassment.
After analysing 114 000 tweets related to Harry and Meghan, Bot Sentinel identified 83 accounts that it alleges were behind 70% of the more virulently anti-Sussex tweets. The accounts had more than 187 000 combined followers and had the potential to reach 17 million other Twitter users, the report estimated.
Some of the tweets used coded racist language, according to Bot Sentinel, which said that Meghan, who is biracial, was the subject of about 80% of the harassment.
The pattern that emerged from how these accounts interact with one another was not “organic,” the report said, suggesting a co-ordinated effort to amplify harassment of the royal couple.
Most of the hate tweets appeared to be generated by humans, Bot Sentinel chief executive Christopher Bouzy said in an email. “We looked for automated accounts and found very little evidence of bot activity.”
Representatives for Harry and Meghan could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Four of the 55 primary accounts pinpointed by Tuesday’s report, have been suspended for violating the platform’s policies, according to a Twitter spokesperson.
But the company said it found no evidence of “widespread co-ordination, the use of multiple accounts by single people, or other platform manipulation tactics.”
Bouzy said there was an observable drop in the activity targeting Meghan and Harry shortly after his report was published. “If the activity had been organic, we wouldn’t have witnessed such a sharp decrease in that short period of time,” he said.
The operators of those accounts were savvy at social media, he told BuzzFeed News, noting that they used measures such as temporarily making accounts private and weaving in non-Sussex content to help evade detection.
The only mixed-race member of the current British royal family, Meghan has said she faced racial hostility from within the palace. In an explosive “tell-all” interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, the couple said that the palace had held “conversations” about the shade of their son’s skin tone.
The Sussexes declined to name any person who allegedly made those comments. Winfrey later said the couple had told her that neither the queen nor her husband had made those remarks.
Last year, the couple said they would distance themselves from palace life and senior royal duties. Their official Instagram account, which has some 10 million followers, has not been updated since March last year.
This article first appeared in Sunday Insider, Oct 31, 2021