Cybertrolls increasingly target women

Monica Lewinsky speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, Session 9, March 19, 2015, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada.

James Duncan Davidson/TED

Cybertrolls are mostly anonymous users that pop up on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Their posts are deliberately provocative, can be abusive and vitriolic in nature and women are an increasingly common target, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford.

At a TED Talk in Vancouver Thursday, Monica Lewinsky spoke out on the dangers of cyberbullying, calling for a cultural revolution in the online community where vile abuse is delivered via social media.

"Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it," Lewsinsky said.

She said her role in a presidential sex scandal turned her into "patient zero" for online bullying, and that she was branded "a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, 'that woman.'"

Activist Rachel Sklar said Lewinsky speaks for a growing number of women who have endured anonymous attacks on the internet and are starting to fight back.

"For many years, there was the mantra 'don't read the comments,' and this notion that anonymity and 'freedom of speech' was more important on the web than safety or pushing back on abuse," said Sklar, founder and gender justice activist at the organization Change the Ratio.

Lewinsky's speech came just days after actress Ashley Judd became the most recent victim of a vicious social media barrage.

The actress, an enthusiastic fan of Kentucky Wildcats basketball, tweeted that an opposing team was "playing dirty."

What followed was an outpouring of sexually charged, violent threats too graphic to repeat.

"The way things happen on social media is so abusive and everyone needs to take personal responsibility for what they write," Judd said on MSNBC.

While personal attacks on public figures like Judd are hardly new, a study by the Working to Halt Online Abuse organization found that women reported 72.5 percent of online harassment.

Last month, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo admitted his company had failed to deal with internet attacks.

"We suck at dealing with abuse," Costolo told staffers in an internal memo. "We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues... I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this."

"We are seeing the internet platforms start to take these threats seriously and you will start to see actual legal ramifications, because eventually the law does catch up with what is happening online," Sklar said.

"I know it's hard, it may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story," Lewinsky said.

Nearly every state has some law against bullying, but currently no federal law exists against cyberbullying.