Speaking frankly at Cannes about the journey of her scandal with former president Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky called on the creative industries to use their influence to encourage greater empathy online.
Lewinsky believes she was the first real victim of very public cyber shaming, calling herself patient zero, but says more needs to be done as technology and the media has turned it into a bloodsport and is profiting from other people's misery. "Public shaming as a bloodsport must stop. We need an intervention on the internet and in culture," she says.
She lay weighty blame on the media and gossip outlets that profit from publishing shaming articles, citing the leak of naked images of actress Jennifer Lawrence after her iCloud account was hacked.
Lewinsky asked the audience to picture an image of the hackers in a room, breaking into the private images and in the next, the journalists that re-published and documented the event. She said the journalists were worse than the hackers because they did what they did to make a point, not to make a profit.
"We have created a culture of humiliation. There is another price tag to public shaming. The price is not measured in the cost to the victim but rather the price measured by the profit of those that prey on them. The violation of others is ruthlessly mined and packaged and sold as a profit. Whether it is for likes, clicks or perverse pleasure, shame is a commodity and public humiliation is an industry. How is money made? Clicks," she argues.
Her answer to this issue is empathy. She believes that spreading empathy, flagging bullies online and posting positive comments is the only way to combat the problem.
"The shift begins with something simple; a long held value of compassion and empathy. Online we have a compassion deficit and an empathy crisis. Shame cannot survive empathy," she says.
This article first appeared in Marketing Magazine.