In the rapidly evolving realm of the Internet and social media – which we increasingly rely on to conduct our lives – navigating our online human rights and ensuring they are protected can be challenging.
That’s why, this Human Rights Day (10 Dec), JustSociale – a federal ACNC-accredited NGO dedicated to promoting online human rights and good digital citizenship – is launching the nation’s first Online Code of Conduct.
“In 2012, the UNHCR declared that our online human rights are no different to our offline human rights. Yet – almost ten years on – many Australians are still unaware that they have online human rights, or how to guarantee they are protected,” explains JustSociale founder and CEO, Sarah Liberty. “Our vision is to ensure that the internet is universally accessible, inclusive and safe, so that diverse Australians can use it to connect with each other – and the global community.”
While Australians are some of the most active social media users in the world (just over 70% of the overall Australian population has active social media accounts), 2.5 million people, or 10% of the population, still does not have access to the internet. Moreover, as research from the eSafety Commissioner has shown, 67% of Australian adults had a negative experience online in the past 12 months (up to Aug 2019), ranging from unwanted messages or scams, viruses, hate speech, abuse and threats. And, unacceptably, three in 10 women (30%) aged between 18 and 55 also revealed in a recent poll said that they had experienced online abuse or harassment.
Inspired by her own personal experience of being hacked and digitally surveilled by a former partner, Sarah Liberty (pictured) established JustSociale in 2020, with the goal of enabling all Australians to feel free, safe and self-empowered online.
Shares Sarah: “We are a defiantly optimistic collective of social entrepreneurs, creatives, civil society actors, technology platforms, media outlets, activists, private businesses and members of diverse communities who are passionate about making the Internet universally accessible and inclusive, so that we can all use it to connect with each other, and the global community – safely.”
Devised to be a living document that will evolve with the online realm, JustSociale’s Code of Code aims to increase trust in online platforms by enhancing the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of the Code’s signatories.
Underpinned by the values of trust, integrity, accountability, transparency, respect, innovation, inclusion and collective action, JustSociale is inviting all those who operate online to contribute to and sign the Code, which is a self-regulatory set of standards for good practice for a broad range of stakeholders, including JustSociale’s Alliance members, other organisations or bodies involved in internet governance and online innovation.
“By becoming a signatory, you will be demonstrating to the public, your customers, clients or beneficiaries that you take online human rights and your responsibility to act as a good digital citizen seriously,” says Sarah. Signatories will receive a certification badge for use on their own platforms, and will be listed on JustSociale’s website. Those who have already signed up include a number of JustSociale Alliance members, such as Women’s March Sydney, Seedling Digital, The Calm Company, Poignand Consulting, Atlas Digital Agency, female-empowerment and fashion brand ARNA Online, Kimberley Chan Meditation, Red Road Co., Gully 9 Productions and the Lokahi Foundation.
To ensure the Code is representative of diverse stakeholders and all members of the Australian public, JustSociale is calling for contributions and suggestions to help shape the Code. Through an online campaign, people will be able to submit their ideas and comments between Human Rights Day and 31 January 2021. The final Code and initial signatories will be released on Safer Internet Day on 9 February 2021.
Bec Skillington, a signatory of the Code and Director of the Red Road Collective, an e-commerce and networking platform breaking down geographical boundaries between women in rural/remote Australia and metropolitan areas: “The evolution of digital technology, in particular social media, has enabled voices to be heard and connections to be made from thousands of kilometres apart. It is imperative that every user is aware of their individual rights and responsibilities as an online citizen, and to maintain a positive digital footprint.This is going to change lives, and it really excites me to be a part of it.”
For Josh Gilbert – environmentalist, agriculturalist, commentator on Indigenous issues and JustSociale Board Member – rather than do away with social media and the internet, balance and good digital citizenship are key.
“As a Worimi man, I’m a big believer and supporter of harnessing social media to keep telling our stories and capture information in a new method. JustSociale’s new Code reflects this belief in the positive power of the Internet and social media; now is the time to ensure we create a climate and culture where good digital citizenship is the order of the day – and where those who practice good digital citizenship are recognised and supported.”
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