Duchess of York slams social media as a ‘sewer’

Duchess of York says the way social media trolls pit Meghan and Kate against each other echoes how she and Princess Diana were painted as ‘rivals’

  • Duchess claims in open letter that much of Twitter and Instagram ‘terrifies’ her
  • Sarah, 59, says the likes of bullying, sexism and racism are ‘commonplace’ online
  • Claims women are ‘constantly pitted against and compared with each other’
  • Kensington Palace staff spend hours moderating sexist and racist comments 

The Duchess of York has compared how Meghan and Kate have been pitted against each other on social media to how she and Princess Diana were painted as ‘rivals’. 

Sarah Ferguson, 59, claimed in an open letter published today that much of Twitter and Instagram ‘terrifies’ her – and that social media has become a ‘sewer’. 

The mother of Princesses Beatrice, 30, and Eugenie, 28, claimed the likes of bullying, sexism and racism are ‘commonplace’, adding: ‘It seems that online, anything goes.’ 

Sarah, Duchess of York (left in Cologne, Germany, on January 28) has spoken about how she was compared to Princess Diana (right, together on Christmas Day at Sandringham in 1988)

She spoke out as she joined celebrities including the Beckhams, Liam Payne and Ronan Keating to support Hello! magazine’s new #HelloToKindness campaign.

It comes after it emerged Kensington Palace staff spend hours moderating hundreds of thousands of sexist and racist online comments aimed at Kate and Meghan.  

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Writing in Hello!, Sarah said: ‘We need to pay more attention than ever to what we’re all being exposed to online. It’s time to confront head on the fact that much of social media has become a sewer.

‘I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and I’m grateful for the fact that they allow me to communicate directly with people who are interested, promote my charitable causes and let people read my own words rather than someone else’s slant on them.

‘But the truth is, a lot about these sites terrifies me. I rarely if ever go ‘below the line’ on social media or news websites and read people’s comments.

The Duchess of Cambridge (left) and the Duchess of Sussex at Sandringham on Christmas Day last year. They have been pitted against each other online as ‘rivals’, the Duchess of York said

‘I know that a lot say nice things, but there’s a large minority who seem to think that all the normal rules of society don’t apply to the internet.

‘Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users.

‘Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace – it seems that online, anything goes.’

She added: ‘Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and I all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt.

‘People feel licensed to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face, and that encourages others to pile in. It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve all become numb to what’s going on. 

Sarah, with her ex-husband Prince Andrew (right) at the wedding of her daughter Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank (centre) at Windsor Castle on October 13 last year

‘There is good evidence that this online culture is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental health, particularly vulnerable young people.’ 

Sarah spoke out after it emerged violent threats have been made towards the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex across Kensington Palace’s social media channels, while other trolls have been targeting ‘rival’ fans in a spate of vicious personal abuse.

Neither Kate nor Meghan have social media accounts, with Meghan having closed her Instagram account a year before her marriage to Prince Harry.

While royal aides have stressed that the majority of comments being left on the official Kensington Palace social media accounts are positive, a Palace source told Hello! that they have also highlighted that teams are spending hours reviewing old material and moderating comments under posts.

Kensington Palace’s social media accounts are a vital source of information for fans of the royals and its Instagram page has over seven million followers, while its Twitter account has nearly 1.6 million.

The Duchess of York with her daughters, Princesses Beatrice (left) and Eugenie (right) at University College Hospital, London on September 30 last year

The Palace is now said to be moderating comments from both Instagram and other social channels.

Some of the worst personal abuse, according to insiders, is seen in exchanges between rival ‘fans’ of the two duchesses.

Some claim Meghan is targeted because she is of mixed race and American. Others try to say Kate is ‘threatened’ by the arrival of her sister-in-law into the senior ranks of the Royal Family.

Both narratives are given short shrift by royal insiders, but there is concern that supposed difficulties between the two young royal couples is being used as a springboard for abuse online. 

In some posts Kate has been called ‘boring’, while Meghan has been targeted for being ‘too slim’ and for ‘touching her baby bump too much’.

Much of the aggression on social media from fans has been from those who have taken sides between the Kate and Meghan following reported tensions in the royal household last year.

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