Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry host TIME100 Talk about creating kinder online spaces

By Zach Harper and Heather Cichowski

Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry hosted an important conversation as part of the TIME100 Talks on Oct. 20, and the focus was on how to create kinder online spaces and foster greater compassion on the web.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex helmed the conversations from their home in Santa Barbara, and were joined by Reddit and 776 co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who is married to Meghan's close friend, Serena Williams. The two spoke with Alexis about social media's incredible powers to connect – and how to prevent that ability from being exploited to spread hatred, racism, misogyny and other forms of bigotry online.

You can watch the full event below:

"It can feel really overwhelming to try to understand all the nuance of what happens online," Meghan said. "It is all-encompassing and it affects us at a multi-faceted level."

Meghan said it was her work in gender equality that helped her see what was happening online.

"It was only in the past couple fo years we both started to connect the dots... all the work I was doing on women's empowerment or young girls and their sense of self-worth, and seeing what the online spaces were doing to that community," she shared.

"What is happening in the online world is affecting the world," Harry added, touching on how mental health can be affected by social media use.

"It is not restricted to certain platforms or certain social media conversations or groups. This is a global crisis – a global crisis of hate, a global crisis of misinformation, and a global health crisis."

In their conversation with Alexis, the duchess added that while "the good outweighs the bad" on social media, the problem is that the "bad can be so loud." Alexis agreed, and compared online groups to the equivalent of beer halls. He said they can be used for connection, but they can also be used to spread hatred if we're not careful.

In a separate conversation, Meghan and Harry were also joined by Safiya Noble, the author of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, and Tristan Harris, the co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology. They also spoke to this problem.

Harry also hosted another conversation with Renee DiResta, a renowned expert on disinformation, and Maria Ressa, named one of TIME's People of the Year in 2018 for fighting fake news.

The hosts of the Teenager Therapy podcast, on which Harry and Meghan appeared earlier this month as part of World Mental Health Day, also spoke about creating safe spaces online, as did Naj Austin, the co-founder of Ethel's Club, a social media platform that focuses on empowering people of colour.

Social worker and researcher Rachel Cargle also joined TIME's Alice Park to speak about the importance of safe and accessible mental health care for women of colour.

Meghan ended the couple's talk by encouraging those watching to come away with "one action item" to make things better in their daily lives and online, and start doing it at home.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people are spending more time at home and also more time online. Earlier in the event, Harry and Meghan spoke about why it's especially important to check in on friends and family during this time. She also mentioned their son, Archie.

"All things considered, everyone is grappling with a different version of the same thing," Meghan said. "For us, we're trying to embrace all of the quality time we get with our son right now and to not miss a single moment of his growth and development, which has been really special."

Harry and Meghan also made a virtual appearance on the TIME 100 Most Influential People broadcast on Sept. 22, which unveiled the 100 recipients of the honour for this year.

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