We talked to digital activists Access Now to find out how we can better protect ourselves online
The newest ethical campaign from the international soap and lotion connoisseurs at Lush features a partnership with the digital activists at Access Now who are currently focusing their energies on fighting against government-enforced internet shutdowns. All the proceeds from Lush’s new Error 404 bath bomb will go towards the digital activists at Access Now as part of the #KeepItOn campaign.
We were lucky enough to attend a launch event for the new Lush bath bomb, where Lush representatives talked about their decision to campaign against internet shutdowns. Reps from Access Now explained the growing need for digital activism.
Before taking off, we got to chat with the digital activist Deji Olukoton who manages the global campaigns as well as Kim Burton who is the Security Education Coordinator for the 24/7 helpline.
HG: What is the mission statement for Access Now?
Deji Olukotun: We defend the digital rights of people all over the world, that’s our mission. We have a 24/7 digital helpline, where we help activists, marginalized people, LGBT people, journalists, 24 hours a day [so] we can help them with their phones or computers that have been hacked or compromised. We also do campaigning, this shutdown campaign is part of our pro-active work.
HG: I know that you had this planned before the presidential election. But do you feel the timing is now more significant because people are now worried about censorship in the U.S.?
DO: Yes, definitely. The campaign wasn’t specifically timed around the election, but what we’ve seen abroad is that internet shutdowns happen around elections. We are in the perfect storm right now after the election, with Trump’s rhetoric about a rigged election, mistrusting the process, and the proliferation of fake news stories, so yeah it’s more relevant. We’ve already seen it in Cameroon, [Africa]. It fits a trend of leaders who want to seize power, they’ll use [internet shutdowns], and shut down social media. They don’t want people talking to each other, it’s a really troubling thing. Unfortunately, the recipe is there for a perfect storm of censorship.
HG: When did you guys first start? Also, what are the primary ways people can support you or get involved?
DO: We started during the Green Revolution in Iran, we saw the government disrupting the internet and we decided to start Access Now. Our helpline was a big part of that. People can take action on our website, you can sign our petition to “Keep It On” that we’ll be handing off to world leaders. Of course, we love support from donations. Right now our helpline is available to American organizations as well, it’s not just international.
There are a lot of people who will be targeted, a lot of people are really concerned about how the new administration will treat them. We are there to support them on the digital side, to make sure their communications are secure. For example, in Syria, when people got arrested one of the first things the captors asked for was their passwords. Most of our cases this year have come from Syria, all of these technologies we use leave a digital trail that authorities can use.
HG: Is your helpline primarily dedicated to educating people about their digital rights, or is it primarily used for people already targeted?
Kim Burton: We deal with the people who are being shut down or worried about being shut down. When someone contacts us, the first thing we’ll do is vet them for security purposes, check out their organization or reach out to a mutual contact. It works out because a lot of the people who need help are connected to each other.
HG: Do you have a piece of advice for people worried about their digital rights? What is an easy first step to ensure better security?
KB: So, password protection is good. You can get a password manager, which is basically a piece of software on your computer. You no longer have to create or remember passwords because the password manager does that for you. So it’s a lot safer than anything you create for yourself. Also, Google’s two-step verification is really easy and good to install for any email accounts. What they do is essentially text you a code you have to enter after your actual password. All of those companies have tutorials you can walk through.
You can check out the Error 404 bath bomb on the Lush website to help their important cause with Access Now. The campaign ends today!