Kensington Palace staff are spending hours each week moderating sexist and racist comments directed at the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, HELLO! can exclusively reveal. A handful have made violent threats towards the two women, while others are targeting 'rival' fans for vicious personal abuse. This news, along with a rise in abusive comments aimed at Kate, Meghan and their fans left on our own social channels has prompted HELLO! to launch the #HelloToKindness campaign, championing positivity online.
A source told HELLO!, "The Palace has always monitored comments but it’s a hugely time consuming thing. They can block certain words, but some of it is quite serious. Over the course of last year, with hundreds of thousands of comments, there were two or three that were violent threats. You can delete and report and block people and the police have options around particular people. It’s something you have to manage because there’s no other way to control it."
Our royal correspondent Emily Nash explains #HelloToKindness
Neither Kate nor Meghan have individual public social media accounts, with Meghan famously closing her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts a year ago ahead of her marriage to Prince Harry. Royal aides stress that the majority of comments left by some of Kensington Palace’s 7.1 million Instagram followers and 1.68 million Twitter followers are positive. But a source told HELLO! "A lot of hours are being spent reviewing old material and moderating comments under posts.
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The problem has become such an issue in recent months that the palace have turned to Instagram in a bid to learn all the tools they can to help them tackle the abusive comments. The social networking company has a team dedicated to helping high profile Instagram followers cope with issues such as these, and particularly around the monitoring of unpleasant and abusive comments.
"It follows a Kate vs Meghan narrative and some of the worst stuff is between Kate fans and Meghan fans," the source continued. "Arguments about who looks more appropriate, for example, that turn into personal attacks on other users. It’s creating a supercharged atmosphere and everyone can join in, but what are the consequences of this?"
This photo of Meghan received a barrage of abusive comments
It’s a question we at HELLO! are posing to our readers this week after noticing an increase in abusive online comments aimed at not just the two Duchesses and others in the public eye, but crucially at other social media users who disagree with them.
Kate has been called "boring" and when Meghan made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards, our moderators had to disable comments on an Instagram post and delete more than 500, because the debate became so abusive. On the day she was announced as patron of four charities and visited one of them, Smart Works, trolls targeted Meghan with a string of criticisms including accusing her of faking her pregnancy to get attention, trying too hard, walking strangely, touching her baby bump too much, and being too slim.
The Duchess of Cambridge is also a victim of vicious online trolling
They also attacked other users, with one urging another poster to "drink bleach" because of her different opinion. And when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Birkenhead, another 477 comments had to be deleted from our social media platforms. As a responsible title, we have decided that enough is enough. It's not acceptable to constantly pit women against each other. It's not acceptable to post racist, sexist or threatening abuse on our platforms. And it's not acceptable to attack other users just because they disagree with you. HELLO! is now urging readers to spread the #HelloToKindness message across social media and take a stand against online abuse.
HELLO! is today urging our readers to spread the #hellotokindness message across social media and take a stand against online abuse. Editor-in-chief Rosie Nixon said: “Comments left under our posts – particularly any to do with Kate or Meghan – have become increasingly hostile – either towards the Duchesses or other users. So we’re asking people to think before they post and say #HelloToKindness. We want to make social media a more positive space for everyone to enjoy.”
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HELLO's Head of Digital Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon said: "Issues of low self esteem are rife among young people these days and we feel, as a responsible publication with high values, we need to lead the way. It's a big concern for our readers too; in a recent survey we discovered how important these issues are to the people we write for, which is exactly why they read our publications. Being healthy in mind as much as in body is important to our audience. They are acutely aware of mental health and self esteem issues experienced by themselves, friends and family and also celebrities.
"They are realistic that celebrities and royals are not immune from life’s ups and downs and they admire those who have spoken out about mental health and image issues." Celebrities including Andrea McLean, Lorraine Kelly, Bros, Blue, Natalie Pinkham, Gaby Roslin and James McVey have already backed our #HelloToKindness campaign, but anyone can get involved and spread the word.
Make a stand. Say #HelloToKindness. Post your message of kindness on Instagram today.