Digital Rights Watch: A new voice in Australian civil society

I am pleased to announce that we have officially launched Digital Rights Watch, a new advocacy organisation to protect the human rights of Australian internet users.

I am the Deputy Chair of this new non-profit. We have a great Board of Directors, and I am really looking forward to working with our extensive networks of supporters around Australia and internationally.

My goal for Digital Rights Watch is to build an organisation that can better connect the disparate groups of individuals and organisations who care about how human rights are protected online. A key part of the problem, as we see it, is that while many people care deeply about these issues, as a sector in Australia we lack good channels of communication and strong consensus-based strategies. Recent debates over data retention and copyright policy have demonstrated that civil society must be better organised to be able to effectively represent the public interest.

With DRW, I hope that we can bring together activists, NGOs, technology firms, academics, lawyers, designers, and other individuals to work together to protect and promote human rights online.

Our key initial priority areas are:

Digital privacy for Australians

  • Advocate for Australia’s privacy principles to protect citizens from mass surveillance.

  • Campaign for a cessation of mass surveillance operations.

  • Watchdog for the rollout of the mandatory data retention scheme and lobby for enhanced judicial oversight.

  • Campaign for a halt to the national facial biometric data scheme

  • Empower the public to actively resist attempts to weaken encryption and privacy-enhancing software through public education on privacy-enhancing tools and encryption technologies.

Democratic oversight

  • Campaign for stronger parliamentary and democratic oversight of domestic and international surveillance agencies.

  • Advocate for a properly resourced Office of the Information Commissioner.

  • Lobby for increased transparency and democratic rule-making in international trade agreements that affect intellectual property and digital rights.

  • Advocate for surveillance agencies to be brought under the ambit of Freedom Of Information legislation.

  • Campaign for security agencies to report under Telecommunications Interception and Access reporting requirements

Fair digital access

  • Critique and monitor the use of website-blocking legislation.

  • Advocate for copyright reform on key issues including: fair use exceptions for copyright infringement to safeguard user rights and promote innovation in Australia; expanded safe harbours to promote freedom of speech and innovation; expanded, stable exceptions to digital rights management and anti-circumvention laws.

Freedom of speech online

  • Advocate for clear, certain, and fair legal rules that govern the liability of internet intermediaries consistent with the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.

  • Encourage national and international online intermediaries and social networking platforms to protect freedom of speech by providing adequate and effective tools to limit and address abuse on their networks. Develop a watchdog function to monitor how these platforms enforce their terms of service, and lobby for enhanced transparency and certainty in decision-making.