On Israel Visit, Monica Lewinsky Tackles Online Hate Speech

Monica Lewinsky was presented with flowers as she continued to draw crowds, 15 March 1999, when her book signing tour reached Scotland.

JERUSALEM – Monica Lewinsky on Wednesday tackled the issue of cyber hatred during a panel she moderated at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Lewinsky is an anti-bullying champion, having been the victim of personal attacks in the wake of the affair she had with then-U.S. president Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s.

The panel was held as part of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. “I came to be interested in the topic of bullying because of experiences that I had in the late 1990s,” Lewinsky told the audience, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“And if you do not know what I am talking about, please do not Google it,” she joked.

Lewinsky said that, with the advent of social media, the nature of human dialogue has changed.

“I wanted to moderate this panel because of the bullying work I have been doing and seeing all of the harassing and shaming and trolling that is done on line,” she said.

The affair that catapulted Lewinsky to national and global headlines took place before websites like Facebook and Twitter made public shaming as dominant as they are today.

“We are now in a place, because of social media, that dialogue, online dialogue, was leading to people sometimes taking their own lives,” Lewinsky said, according to the Post.

As a result, she added, “how we chose our words and we communicate is something that we need to pay even more attention to online.”

Among those present at the panel were two people who deal with online expressions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Muhammad Nasser Eddin, director of Middle East programming for Seeds of Peace, said that online communication is challenging because of the comments that are posted about the conflict. The focus of the program he runs, bringing together Israel and Palestinian teenagers, is face-to-face dialogue, he said.

Moriya Rosenberg, a member of the YaLa Peace Movement, a Facebook-based group promoting peace and coexistence, also participated. The group “allows people to engage in a safe space where you can be yourself and open up and learn about other cultures,” she said, adding that YaLa is a huge network with more than a million members.