An introduction from DRW’s new Chairperson

by Lizzie O’Shea

It’s an honour to take over as chair of Digital Rights Watch from Tim Singleton Norton. Tim has set an excellent example. A hard working, deep thinking digital rights activist, he has been a source of energy and good judgement at a time in which there was very little hope for those concerned about our human rights online. He has built something powerful with his efforts, which has emboldened our community to demand more of policy makers in this space. Tim will be missed, but we know he will continue to be an invaluable supporter of this important project he helped initiate. 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a writer and lawyer. I’ve campaigned on digital rights for many years, including as a founding board member of DRW. My writing has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, and Sydney Morning Herald, among others. I also published a book last year, Future Histories (Verso, 2019), which looks at radical social movements and theories from history and applies them to debates we have about digital technology today. It was shortlisted for the Premier’s Literary Award.

Our priorities for DRW continue to be to stand up for digital rights. Australia is the only developed country without a bill of rights, and it shows. Too often, our law-makers do not treat that the protection of digital rights is a priority, and make laws that centralised power in online spaces in the surveillance state and the tech industry. Campaigns to resist this are growing, and becoming increasingly diverse, which has been great to see. Now more than ever we need to consolidate these efforts into a force that can defend digital rights when they come under attack. 

We have a great program of work planned, including calling for an end to facial recognition technology, continuing to campaign for the repeal of the encryption laws, as well as providing submissions to regulators and parliamentary committees on numerous topics. We are working with local councils to build smart digital rights cities, and empowering activists and the public on ways to uphold their digital rights and increase their privacy and digital security at crypto-parties and meetup events we plan to roll out in the near future.  We want to see everyone, including kids, be safe online, and also ensure there is a right to freedom of expression, and using technology to keep those in power accountable.  

To do this, we need your help. On of my objectives as chair is to get DRW to a point of financial sustainability. The work we do is having impact. It keeps those in positions of power in check. We will continue to speak out and propose alternatives to policies and regulations that undermine our democracy and our digital rights. But we need your help to continue to do this work. If you are not a regular monthly donor, please consider becoming one

We have a great dynamic board, some terrific staff members and a clever and powerful membership base. There is lots we can achieve when we work together, and I’m looking forward to making sure that happens.