Meghan Markle Says ‘Bots And Trolls’ Are Changing How We Interact ‘Online And Off’

Meghan Markle is ready for a reset, a reckoning and a reevaluation of the way people interact with each other both online and offline.

The Duchess of Sussex joined Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit virtually on Tuesday and spoke about the state of the digital landscape and the ways it can be shaped into resembling something more humane.

Her topics aligned with the conference’s theme for this year: “Rising to the New Reality.”

“It’s like we live in the future when you’re talking about bots and trolls and all of these things,” Meghan said while speaking with senior Fortune editor Ellen McGirt.

“It seems so fantastical, but that’s actually the current state of affairs and that is shaping how we interact with each other online and off — and that’s the piece that’s important,” the royal continued. “It is not just an isolated experience. It transcends into how you interact with anyone around you and certainly your own relationship with yourself.”

Fortune senior editor Ellen McGirt and Meghan Markle during Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday. 
Fortune senior editor Ellen McGirt and Meghan Markle during Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday. 
Fortune senior editor Ellen McGirt and Meghan Markle during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday./Fortune

During the time that we’re living in right now, especially amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Duchess of Sussex said that people “are all going through a reset and we are all going through a moment of reckoning — and probably a reevaluation of what really matters.”

“For me, it’s been amazing to spend time with my husband and watch our little one grow and that’s where our attention has been,” the “Suits” alum said. “In addition to, of course, how we can be a part of the change of energy that so many people are craving right now and whatever we can do to help in that capacity.” 

During the talk, Meghan also gave a little insight into one of the missions of the Sussexes’ new nonprofit organization, Archewell. The couple announced the name of their foundation back in April, but it has yet to officially launch.

“Part of our focus with the Archewell Foundation is to just ensure that we are helping foster healthy positive communities ― online and off ― for our collective wellbeing,” she said of the work, which she called “Archewell in action,” that the couple have been doing “quietly” since January.


“To see how you are propagating hate, whether passively or actively; to see how you are clicking on things that are contributing to an industry that is really toxic for so many of us, especially as parents,” the duchess said.

“We have got to all put our stock in something that is true,” she added. “And we all need to have reliable media and news sources that are telling us the truth. Without that, I don’t know where it leaves us.”

She listed the “one clear tangible thing” that regular people can do daily to stop the spread of misinformation.

“It really just includes not contributing to or even clicking on misinformation,” the duchess explained. “And when you know something is wrong, reporting it, it, talking about it, ensuring that the facts are getting out there. I think that is one clear tangible thing that everyone could be doing.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are working to combat misinformation and hate speech online. 
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are working to combat misinformation and hate speech online./

Towards the end of her time at the summit, the Duchess of Sussex addressed the powerful people and forces that have tried “to disparage [her] message,” as McGirt put it, after the duchess recently urged people to vote and expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Just last week, President Donald Trump said he wasn’t “a fan” of Meghan, following comments she made about getting to the polls this November.

Meghan said Tuesday that much of the backlash she has faced isn’t focused on what she’s said, but rather the way that things have been interpreted.

“If you look back at anything that I’ve said, it’s really interesting because what ends up being inflammatory it seems is people’s interpretations of it. But if you listen to what I actually say, it’s not controversial,” she said.

“And actually some of it is just reactive to things that haven’t happened, which ― in some ways ― I think you have to have a sense of humor about it, even though there is quite a lot of gravity and there can be a lot of danger in a misinterpretation of something that was never there to begin with.”

The Duchess of Sussex — who has been the subject of racist and misogynistic press and “hundreds of thousands of inaccurate articles” since reports broke that she was dating Prince Harry in 2016 — understands misinformation and harmful media practices all too well.

The Duchess of Sussex in conversation with The 19th* founder and CEO Emily Ramshaw in August.
The Duchess of Sussex in conversation with The 19th* founder and CEO Emily Ramshaw in August./

Meghan and Harry have, among other key issues, increasingly focused their efforts on stopping the spread of hate speech and disinformation since officially stepping back as working members of the royal family in March.

During a chat with Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO of The 19th* in August, the duchess spoke about her personal experience in dealing with “toxicity” in the media.

“I think what’s so fascinating ― at least from my standpoint and my personal experience the past couple of years ― is the headline alone, the clickbait alone, makes an imprint,” Meghan said. “That is part of how we start to view the world, how we interact with other people.”

“That is what is monetizable right now when you’re looking at the digital space and media,” the royal explained. “If you’re just trying to grab someone’s attention and keep it, you’re going for something salacious versus something truthful.”

“You want to have trust in journalism and you want to have trust in what you’re reading and hope that it’s fact,” she later added. “We’ve been so sadly comfortable with the idea that we are just getting all of this stuff and it becomes noise as opposed to truth and accurate journalism.”

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