Date
24 November 2017
Monica Lewinsky described herself as one of the first victims of cyberbullying. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED
Monica Lewinsky described herself as one of the first victims of cyberbullying. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Monica Lewinsky calls for end to cyberbullying

Monica Lewinsky has returned to the spotlight, calling for an end to cyberbullying.

Speaking at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, Lewinsky described herself as one of the first victims of cyberbullying. 

In 1998, she made headlines around the world when her affair with then president Bill Clinton as a White House intern was exposed.

She joked that she’s one of the very few people over the age of 40 who don’t want to become 22 again.

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences.

“Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake, and I regret that mistake deeply.

“In 1998, after having been swept up in an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before.”

She said it was the digital revolution that made the scandal travel across the world.

“When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyberbullying.”

She said the internet has created a culture where people enjoyed viewing other’s shame online.

Although social media in 1998 was not as pervasive as it is now, pictures of Lewinsky wearing a black beret as she embraced Clinton on the White House grounds quickly spread on the internet, along with comments and jokes about her affair with the president, BBC News reported.

“Now I admit I made mistakes — especially wearing that beret — but the attention and judgment that I received — not the story, but that I personally received — was unprecedented,” she said.

“I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman’. I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”

British charity Childline reported an 87 percent increase in calls related to cyberbullying last year while children’s charity NSPCC said one in five children is now bullied online.

Last year, a study conducted in the Netherlands found that cyberbullying was more likely to lead young people to suicide than its offline equivalent, the BBC said.

Lewinsky said technology has extended the “echo of embarrassment”.

“It used to only extend as far as your family, your school, your village, but now it is to the whole online community.

“The more shame, the more clicks and the more clicks the more advertising dollars. We are making money off the back of suffering.”

The internet has made people numb to the suffering and humiliation of others, she said.

Lewinsky said there was a reason why she decided to come out after a decade of silence. “It was time to stop tip-toeing around my past, it was time to take back my narrative and let others know that you can survive it.”

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CG 

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