he royal family today published new rules for followers engaging with its official social media accounts, in the wake of online abuse directed at the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge.

In a sign the palace is stepping up its defence of Meghan and Kate, the social media community guidelines published on the royal family’s official website state that comments left on its feed must not “be defamatory of any person, deceive others, be obscene, offensive, threatening, abusive, hateful, inflammatory or promote sexually explicit material or violence”.

Additionally, comments that “promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age” will not be tolerated.

The new guidelines follow reports palace staff were being forced to spend several hours per week deleting abusive posts from the royal family’s official Instagram and Twitter accounts, some of which was being directed at Meghan, who is due to give birth to her first child with Prince Harry in the spring, and Kate, Prince William’s wife of almost eight years

A report in The Guardian in January said the palace had sought advice from Instagram on dealing with the hateful comments, which are said to have included physical threats. The new guidelines state that where appropriate abusive comments will be forwarded to the police for investigation.

Some of the worst comments have been attributed to rival camps of the two Duchesses’ respective fans, who have been known to engage in verbal spats in the comments section on the Kensington Palace Instagram feed, which has 7.1million followers.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told Vogue: “Our social media accounts have grown considerably over the last few years and now attract thousands of comments every week.” While the vast majority are “positive”, the spokesperson said, “sadly, the growth also means that our accounts now attract some comments that are highly inappropriate or threatening – most often towards other commentators.

“We entirely respect criticism, but obviously threats and harassment are not appropriate – these guidelines are being published to set out transparently what is and is not acceptable.”

The spokesperson added that the palace has had moderation tools in place for some time, and that the guidelines are simply “the next step”.

The enormous surge in the royals’ social media following is largely down to the popularity of the two Duchesses, in particular Meghan, who brought some Hollywood star power to the palace when she married Harry at Windsor Castle in May last year, watched by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, and George and Amal Clooney.

Before meeting Harry, then actress Meghan was a lifestyle blogger with a substantial social media following of her own, but she closed her personal accounts when her relationship with the royal became serious.

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