In Australia, 2.5 million people are still not online and, according to a study by Sydney University’s Digital Rights and Governance Project, 80% of those who are online want to know how their information is being accessed, and by whom. JustSociale – an ACNC-accredited federal NGO – is now on a mission to promote awareness of and protect the online human rights of all Australians.
“The Internet must be safely and equally accessible to everyone, but from my academic and professional expertise working as an NGO leader in London, New York, Paris, Jogjakarta and Sydney, I know it is not,” says Founder and CEO of JustSociale, Sarah Liberty.
In addition to her time spent working in both the civil society and private sectors in executive Communications roles, as well as studying her Master of International Relations: Human Rights at Sciences Po, Paris, Liberty was inspired to start JustSociale after having had her own rights violated online.
When a former partner hacked her computer, email and social media accounts and began to digital surveille her, Liberty wasn’t quite sure what her rights were or who she could turn to. And, as a vocal human rights advocate and intersectional feminist with a strong stance on social justice issues, she has also experienced her fair share of trolling online.
“By promoting the fact that our online human rights are no different to our offline rights, JustSociale seeks to support all Australians to feel self-empowered when it comes to online activities, and to raise awareness of their online human rights and responsibilities as digital citizens,” explains Liberty.
JustSociale is forging Australia’s first national Alliance of actors already working in the space – including civil society, law enforcement, the government, activists, technology platforms, businesses, communications and advertising agencies, creatives and individuals – to amplify their voices through advocacy and to strengthen their capacity to promote the online rights of everyone in Australia, and to support them in preventing harm.
“We want to shape an Alliance that collectively develops progressive policies that adapt to the rapidly online landscape; policies that may be diplomatically presented to law enforcement agencies, technology platforms and the government to bring about real societal change,” says Liberty. “For example, whilst Australia has a number of Commonwealth and State laws in place to protect women, including from online genderbased violence, an unacceptable number of Australian women – one in three according to Amnesty – are still subjected to abuse and harassment online.”
Partners who have already signed up to join the JustSociale Alliance include Women’s March Sydney, Seedling Digital, The Calm Company, Poignand Consulting, Atlas Digital Agency, New York-based consultancy Transform your Performance, female-empowerment and fashion brand ARNA Online, Kimberley Chan Meditation and Gully 9 Productions.
To promote equality of access, JustSociale will provide information and resources through its website that will be translated into languages other than English, starting with Mandarin and Arabic. It will also work collectively with communities in remote and rural locations to ensure they can have equal access to Internet and smartphone technology, and to the educational resources that the organisation will provide.
The organisation’s Board has also been carefully selected to ensure JustSociale remains sensitive to the voices, concerns and needs of diverse Australians. The Board comprises: Joshua Gilbert, an award-winning Aboriginal and climate activist, and business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Regina Huber, CEO of New York-based inclusion and diversity leadership consultancy Transform Your Performance; Nicholas Riggs, a digital strategist who has been involved in building online communities since the early dialup driven days of the Internet; Jaime Evans, Director of Women’s March Sydney; and
Melissa Griffiths, a transgender authority and advocate. “Whilst we know the Internet offers unparalleled opportunities for connection and has become an essential part of many of our daily lives, we also know these opportunities are not available for all Australians. As a Worimi man who works closely with Indigenous communities, I know from experience that people in rural and remote communities are not able to access the Internet as freely, equally or safely as Australians in urban centres – that’s why I am passionate about working with JustSociale to promote making the Internet accessible and inclusive for all,” says Gilbert, a Young Australia of the Year Finalist and Australian Geographic’s Young Conservationist of the Year.