British royals appeal for online kindness after trolling of Kate and Meghan

LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) - Britain's royals unveiled a new protocol on Monday for users of their social media channels, asking for kindness and warning of possible police action following a rise in abusive comments, often aimed at Prince Harry's pregnant wife Meghan.

Abusive and even threatening remarks have become commonplace on the comment sections and Twitter feeds of the royal family, with Kate and Meghan, the wives of Queen Elizabeth's grandsons Prince William and Harry, particular targets.

Unveiling their "Social Media Community Guidelines," Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace - the offices for the queen, her son and heir Prince Charles, and William and Harry - outlined what behavior they expected from users of their channels.

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Duchess Kate and Duchess Meghan together
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge greets Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at Westminster Abbey for a Commonwealth day service on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the worlds population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Service is based. This years theme A Connected Commonwealth speaks of the practical value and global engagement made possible as a result of cooperation between the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations, who work together in friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealths governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealths friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge sits near Meghan, Duchess of Sussex as they attend the Westminster Abbey Commonwealth day service on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the worlds population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Service is based. This years theme A Connected Commonwealth speaks of the practical value and global engagement made possible as a result of cooperation between the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations, who work together in friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealths governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealths friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge talks with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at Westminster Abbey Commonwealth day service on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the worlds population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Service is based. This years theme A Connected Commonwealth speaks of the practical value and global engagement made possible as a result of cooperation between the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations, who work together in friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealths governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealths friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Members of Britain's Royal family leave after attending the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Monday, March 11, 2019. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth - a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the world's population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool) (Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge stands with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at Westminster Abbey for a Commonwealth day service on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the worlds population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Service is based. This years theme A Connected Commonwealth speaks of the practical value and global engagement made possible as a result of cooperation between the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations, who work together in friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealths governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealths friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge talks with the Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at Westminster Abbey Commonwealth day service on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the worlds population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Service is based. This years theme A Connected Commonwealth speaks of the practical value and global engagement made possible as a result of cooperation between the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations, who work together in friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealths governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealths friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, (foreground centre), sits with Prince William, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, front row, Prince Andrew, background right, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 11, 2019 in London, England. Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth - a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the world's population, of whom 60 percent are under 30 years old. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 5: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a reception to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on March 5, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
(L-R) Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a reception to mark the 50th Anniversary of the investiture of The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in London on March 5, 2019. - The Queen hosted a reception to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the investiture of Britain's Prince Charles, her son, as the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles was created The Prince of Wales aged 9 on July 26th 1958 and was formally invested with the title by Her Majesty The Queen on July 1st 1969 at Caernarfon Castle. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2018 in King's Lynn, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2018 in King's Lynn, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2018 in King's Lynn, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
(L-R) Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrive for the Royal Family's traditional Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, eastern England, on December 25, 2018. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Centenary Of The Armistice Service at Westminster Abbey on November 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
(L-R) Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend a service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in central London on November 11, 2018. (Photo by Paul Grover / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL GROVER/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, (L) Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, (C) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex react during the wedding ceremony of Britain's Princess Eugenie of York to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on October 12, 2018. (Photo by Owen Humphreys / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read OWEN HUMPHREYS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage )
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage )
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage )
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 1O: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to view a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on July 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 10: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a ceremony to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace on July 10, 2018 in London, England. The 100th birthday of the RAF, which was founded on on 1 April 1918, was marked with a centenary parade with the presentation of a new Queen's Colour and flypast of 100 aircraft over Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
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"We ask that anyone engaging with our social media channels shows courtesy, kindness and respect for all other members of our social media communities," the guidelines said.

They stated that comments must not be defamatory, obscene, threatening, or abusive; be discriminatory in any way; be "off-topic, irrelevant or unintelligible" or contain advertising.

The protocol said royal officials would determine whether the guidelines had been breached and anyone who did so would be blocked or have their comments hidden or deleted.

"We also reserve the right to send any comments we deem appropriate to law enforcement authorities for investigation as we feel necessary or is required by law," it said.

Some 3.87 million accounts follow the Royal Family's Twitter feed and another 1.69 follow that of Kensington Palace as the House of Windsor seeks to reach out directly to royal fans and showcase its work, with the overwhelming number of messages supportive.

However, while the palaces gave no explanation as to why they had issued the guidance now, there has been rising abuse of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, since the former U.S. actress married Harry last May.

A source from Kensington Palace told Hello! magazine, which launched a campaign in January to end the online abuse, that officials were spending hours each week addressing sexist and racist comments aimed at the duchesses.

These included a number of violent threats while there have also been vicious online rows between rival supporters of the two royals, and even those who report on their activities.

"It is not just the royal princesses who are being trolled, every royal journalist, every royal correspondent is being trolled as well," royal biographer Claudia Joseph told Reuters.

"People see their opinions as valid and I don't think they totally understand journalists do research, that the royals have a job to do."

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and ex-wife of the queen's second son Prince Andrew, called on social media firms to do more following the Hello! Campaign, saying it was not a matter of free speech.

"Much of social media has become a sewer," she said on Twitter last month. "Tech firms need to do much more to take a stand against online abuse, rather than shrugging their shoulders." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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