JustSociale – Australia’s first federally ACNC-accredited NGO dedicated to promoting awareness of and to protecting the online human rights of all Australians – officially launches this International Day for Universal Access to Information (28 Sept, 2020).
Set aside by the UN, the day recognises that universal access to information is a cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies. In Australia, however, 2.5 million people are still not online and, according to a study by the Digital Rights and Governance Project at the University of Sydney, 80% of those who are online want to know how their information is being accessed, and by whom. “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 Sydney-based Founder and CEO of JustSociale, Human Rights Advocate and UN #GenerationEquality Ambassador, Sarah Liberty.
In addition to her time spent working in both the civil society and private sectors, in executive Communications and Marketing 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 digitally surveil 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 this 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 gender- based 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, Poignant Consulting, Atlas Digital Agency, New York-based consultancy Transform your Performance, Gully 9 Video Productions, and female-empowerment and fashion brand ARNA Online. 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, as well as to the educational resources that the organisation will provide. The organisation’s Board of ‘Responsible People’ 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, the CEO of Ney York-based inclusion and diversity leadership consultancy Transform Your Business; Nicholas Riggs, a professional digital and social media strategist who has been involved in building online communities since the early dial-up driven days of the Internet in London; and Jaime Evans, Director of Women’s March Sydney.
“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 Australian of the Year Finalist and Australian Geographic’s Young Conservationist of the Year.