Previous FOSI Events 2009

Family Online Safety Institute

Online safety for children and their families.


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15-18 November 2009. 4th Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Theme: Creating Opportunities for All


Dr Tarek Kamel, the Egyptian minister of Communications and Information Technology (3rd from left), H.E. Suzanne Mubrak (4th from left), David Miles, FOSI Director of Europe, Middle East and Africa (third from the right)

Venue: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

With over 1,500 attendees at this year's Internet Governance Forum, family online safety was a dominant theme. From the opening morning of the workshop schedule, the Dynamic Coalition (which includes FOSI) took its theme as "The Global Path of ensuring Online Child Protection and Safety: Effective Strategies and Specific Actions." Subsequent workshops ensured child online safety was never far from the top of the agenda.

The forum culminated on the last day with a Host Country Honourary Session, during which FOSI signed a ground-breaking agreement between it and the Egyptian Government. Signed in the presence of H.E. Suzanne Mubarak, this two year agreement commits both parties to a number of important family online safety initiatives in Egypt and the wider Arab World. To view the video of the Honourary Session go to For more information on the IGF go to

4-5 November 2009. 3rd Annual Conference & Exhibition.

Building a Culture of Responsibility: From Online Safety to Digital Citizenship

Venue: The Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium,1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004

This year’s conference was another tremendous success, with leaders from industry, the non-profit sector, educators, and policy makers all convening to discuss the most prominent issues in online safety and responsibility, security, and digital citizenship. The conference attracted 400 attendees, 80 speakers and 31 exhibitors from 15 countries.


16th September 2009. FOSI European Conference

Global Digital Citizenship: Encouraging Safe and Responsible Online Use

Venue: Fédération des Industries Electriques, Electroniques et de Communication, 11-17 rue de l'amiral Hamelin, 75783 Paris Cedex 16

Following the highly-acclaimed two-day roundtable in London, FOSI held a one-day European Conference designed to bring together key industry figures, experts, government representatives and the wider stakeholder community, to discuss how to ensure a continued and successful international push for global digital citizenship and safe and responsible online use.

Generously sponsored by AT&T and supported by France Telecom, it brought together the key voices in the international Internet stakeholder community. They looked at the Western world challenges that universal broadband coverage creates for the Internet industry and how corporate responsibility is evolving to meet them. Conference sessions explored the reponse of industry, government and charitable to the issues that less developed nations face as they try to provide internet access to their citizens.

Sessions focused on digital citizenship, media literacy, privacy, technology solutions and their impact on internet safety, location-based services and wireless safety efforts, and safe online use in developing countries.

To view the full agenda and speaker profiles please click here

26th August 2009. Wednesdays with Winston - Focus on the FTC

FOSI and the law firm Womble Carlyle hosted a Wednesdays with Winston luncheon panel on August 26, 2009 and attracted an expert panel and knowledgeable audience for what proved to be a lively debate. Panelists included Molly Crawford of the FTC, Jules Polonetsky from the Future of Privacy Forum, Microsoft’s Frank Torres and Jennifer Kashatus of Womble Carlyle. Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, moderated the discussion. The debate focused on the role of the Federal Trade Commission in online safety and covered topics such as Online Behavioural Advertising and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Molly Crawford outlined the work that was being done by the FTC regarding Online Behavioural Advertising and COPPA and called upon the industry to maintain the dialogue with the FTC on these issues. She discussed the importance of transparency and greater privacy for consumers and said the FTC needs to hear more from industry on the secondary uses of data collected online. Crawford said that there is a strong possibility of legislation in the area of online advertising if companies don’t step up their efforts to engage in a dialogue with the FTC and make consumers aware of practices. Crawford also noted that the FTC has moved up its review of COPPA to 2010 and is currently examining virtual worlds.

Jules Polonetsky said that one of the goals of the Future of Privacy Forum is to advance responsible practices. He reminded the audience that the industry had dealt with the problem of spam and spyware and that progress in the domain of online behavioural advertising was possible without government intervention, it just needed time. Polonetsky said that businesses are working to make sure consumers are aware of what is being used. He also noted that the public likes it when online behavioural advertising works for their benefit and enhances their online experience. Polonetsky also said that legislators are less cautious about acting in this area and there is a need for some technical innovation.

Frank Torres of Microsoft paid tribute to the work that the FCC has been doing with behavioural targeting and online advertising. He said these are important aspects of how the industry works today and online ads can help newspapers, journalists, and small businesses. Torres noted that Rep. Boucher has been talking about a privacy bill that includes behavioural advertising and said that it is important that businesses are allowed to work and grow but that consumers are also informed. Torres said that Microsoft believes it is important to educate parents and kids to be savvy online. He also explained that compliance with COPPA is important and encouraged everyone to be active in the COPPA review.

Jennifer Kashatus of Womble Carlyle talked about the increase in state governments taking action in this area. She said that states are moving much faster than the federal government and questioned whether industry can move fast enough and keep up with requirements on a state-by-state basis. Kashatus discussed recent legislation in Maine to expand the age of verifiable consent for obtaining information from children online and limitations this law places on what can be done with the data. She noted that a challenge was filed to the law.

The discussion moved on to cover aspects of COPA and COPPA at which point the audience was solicited for information and Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation discussed the dangers of age verification and the many state bills being discussed that expand on COPPA. Representatives from three of the COPPA Safe Harbors, Privo, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, and Trustee, were present for the discussion and explained how companies comply with COPPA and some of the challenges state legislation in this area will present for companies trying to comply with laws. An audience member representing a small start-up company said they need guidance and they can’t afford legal advice on a state-by-state basis. He said there needs to be a central resource to let small companies know what to do. Amanda Lenhart from Pew Research Center said that Pew is collecting data and helping the FTC gather information on kids’ use of virtual worlds.

The luncheon ended with the conclusion that this robust discussion was “to be continued” as the FTC moves forward around COPPA, virtual worlds, and behavioural advertising.

24th June 2009. FOSI & Womble Carlyle Present: Wednesday with Winston

A lunchtime series focused on issues of online safety an privacy

On June 24, 2009 FOSI and the law firm Womble Carlyle hosted the second of the lunchtime panel series, Wednesdays with Winston. The focus of this Wednesdays with Winston was on the Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) on the Child Safe Viewing Act. Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, moderated a discussion with Robert Cannon, Senior Counsel in the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis at the FCC; David E. Young, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs at Verizon; Matt Gerst, Counsel for External and State Affairs at CTIA- the Wireless Foundation; and Eric Breisach, an attorney with Womble Carlyle.

Robert Cannon explained that the Child Safe Viewing Act was passed in 2008 and tasked the FCC with examining advanced blocking technologies and reporting the findings to Congress by August 2009. Cannon stressed that this is not a rulemaking proceeding and discussed the types of comments submitted to the FCC. After Cannon provided background on the NOI, the discussion turned to existing technologies and efforts to help parents control what their children access online. David Young and Matt Gerst talked about the many available options for parents, most of which are free of charge and easy to use. David Young highlighted Verizon’s tools and offerings and mentioned that Verizon provides a website for parents with information about parental controls across all of Verizon’s platforms. Young also discussed Verizon’s initiatives to educate parents.

Matt Gerst of CTIA highlighted the wireless industry’s efforts to offer parental controls. He discussed how the wireless industry began to offer these services for parents without a mandate from Congress and how successful the voluntary efforts of the wireless industry have been in this area. Gerst also discussed the education initiatives CTIA provides and talked about the Wireless Child Safety Task Force. Eric Breisach hypothesized about where the FCC may go with online safety under a new chairman. He also discussed the First Amendment concerns that will arise if Congress tries to mandate a blocking technology and limit access to content.

The panelists agreed that providing tools and education were the best ways to keep children from accessing harmful content online. The next Wednesdays with Winston luncheon panel will be on August 26th and will focus on the FTC’s role in online safety.

17-18th June 2009. GSMA/FOSI Roundtable:Mobile Safety and Broadband Responsibility for All

Venue: GSM Association, 1st Floor, Mid City Place, High Holborn, London, WC1V 6EA

Hosted by the GSM Association and in conjunction with the Family Online Safety Institute this two day of international roundtable brought together some of the leading academics, industry thinkers and child advocates. With attendees from 58 organizations, 7 countires and 3 continents it provided a unique insight into the issues and challenges that an ever more pervasive Internet brings.

This first day took an indepth look at mobile device safety. With research from both leading academics and industry, this evidence-based debate moved on to examine current initiatives and future trends.

The second day, coinciding as it did with the publication of the Digital Britain Report, looked in detail at its recommendations and compared it with other universal broadband initiatives in Europe and the United States.

Keynote speakers and panellists included Aaron Rattue (GfK), Professor Sonia Livingstone (LSE), Professor Rich Ling (Telenor Research Institute), Jason De Bono (DCSF), Annie Mullins (Voadfone), Trish Chursh (Orange), Maria Jose Cantarino de Frias (Telefonica), John Carr (CCCISS), Robin Blake (Ofcom), Derek Wyatt (MP), Antony Walker (BSG) and Michael McKeehan (Verizon).

Full Agenda

12th June 2009. FOSI Panel Series: Is it Possible to Legislate Safety?

Venue: Room HC-7, in the Capitol, Washington DC

FOSI’s June Hill Panel, titled “Is it Possible to Legislate Safety?” featured Mercedes Salem from the office of Representative Linda Sanchez; Jason Tuber from the office of Senator Robert Menendez; and Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. The discussion, moderated by FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam, focused on the recent introduction of two pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill: the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act and the SAFE Internet Act. Each of the panelists shared their perspectives on these bills.

Salem provided support for the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act and said that educating youth about online safety is crucial. Salem said that Rep. Linda Sanchez is dedicated to a holistic approach to online safety, but also finds it necessary to give prosecutors the ability to punish online bullying. Although Salem emphasized that education is absolutely essential, she also said that there are people who should be punished because cyberbullying is a serious problem.

Tuber emphasized the importance of education in dealing with online safety and concluded that it is not possible to legislate safety, but that Congress can facilitate safety. Tuber explained that the way we can do this is by giving schools and teachers the resources that they need to teach kids about the importance of online safety.

Thierer shared his view on the two bills and said that “people have always engaged in bullying, but they are doing it even more now and they are doing it online.” He acknowledged that cyberbullying is a serious problem and applauded both Rep. Sanchez and Sen. Menendez for focusing the attention of Congress on these issues, but cautioned against criminalizing kid on kid bullying. “The Menendez approach is preferable because you can’t go wrong with education,” Thierer said as he discussed the need to focus on prevention and education rather than the criminalization of adolescent behavior. Thierer also addressed the First Amendment concerns in the Megan Meier Act which led to a debate among the panelists and a number of audience questions.

All three panelists’ views on the two bills differed slightly, but all of the panelists agreed on the importance of educating today’s youth about online safety.

See previous FOSI Hill Panels on FOSI's YouTube channel:

13th May 2009. Online On Wednesdays with FOSI

What Goes Online, Stays Online: Protecting Online Reputations in a Sexting Cyberspace

“What Goes Online, Stays Online: Protecting Online Reputations in a Sexting Cyberspace,” was the title of May’s ‘Online on Wednesday,’ panel discussion, which featured Monique Roth (Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section); Donna Rice Hughes (Enough is Enough); and Ting-Yi Oei (Assistant Vice Principal, Freedom High School in Loudon County, VA). The discussion focused on the issue of ‘sexting’, which refers to the recent phenomenon of kids sending sexually suggestive photos of themselves to other kids, who in turn post them on the Internet.

Roth said that prosecutors need a full tool kit at their disposal for child pornography cases but there may be alternative ways to deal with sexting by teens. Roth also said we should not be too quick to carve out exceptions for sexting cases because there may be instances where bad people are actually possessing and distributing child pornography, including images originally created by teens. While there will always be extremes, prosecutorial discretion gives law enforcement the ability not to charge innocent kids who may have these photos on their phones or on their computers. Rice Hughes pointed out that we should not be surprised that 1 in 5 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are sending sexually explicit photos around because we are living in a culture whereby sexual messages are everywhere. One of the problems is that we have “absentee cyber parents” who are not getting involved with their kid’s cyber world.

Assistant Principal Oei, told his story of being wrongly charged for having a copy of a sexually suggestive photo of an unnamed female minor on his computer which was given to him by a male student who was being investigated for having the photo on his phone. Oei thinks we need better policies in the schools to deal with this situation. Oei explained how schools can fill the role for vulnerable kids who may not have involved parents. He believes that his school missed an opportunity to teach kids about how to behave in a mobile environment after he was wrongly arrested. Donna Rice Hughes said that the generation brought up with this technology will make much better cyber parents and Stephen Balkam echoed that sentiment emphasizing the importance of building a culture of responsibility.

Remarks from Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz

April 29, 2009. Wednesdays with Winston

The Family Online Safety Institute and Womble Carlyle hosted the first in the “Wednesday with Winston” series, which focused on Privacy & Online Safety. Stephen Balkam, CEO, FOSI moderated a discussion with speakers, Danielle Benoit, Womble Carlyle; Adam Palmer, .ORG; and Denise Tayloe, Privo.

The discussion centered on three items: education, legislation and technology. All the speakers agreed that education was key to increasing awareness of Internet Safety, and that parents, teachers, kids, law-enforcement and judges were important groups to target with education messages.

There was some discussion about whether current and proposed legislation would achieve the desired outcome of keeping kids safe online while at the same time protecting privacy. As one panelist put it, “is it possible to legislate safety?” Interesting ideas concerning technological solutions to keep kids safe online were discussed, for example, using digital rights management as a means for flagging photos and emails from being shared, as well as other ideas that FOSI will be looking into.

*Please join us on June 24th, 2009 for the next Wednesday with Winston, to learn first-hand what's happening in online safety at the Federal Communications Commission.

22 April, 2009. Wireless Online Safety: Keeping Kids Safe in a Mobile Environment

Over 100 participants attended FOSI and The Wireless Foundation’s conference in Washington DC on April 22nd, bringing together some of the best thinkers in mobile safety, from child advocacy groups and mommy bloggers to online safety curriculum creators, the wider Internet industry, academics and researchers, policymakers and think tanks.

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Keynote speeches came from FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, Steve Largent, CEO, CTIA and Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Maryland.

Sessions included:

Wired to Wireless - Challenges & Opportunities, chaired by Stephen Balkam, FOSI

Tools For Parents - Strategies And Technologies For Wireless Kids, chaired by Adam Thierer, PFF

How Are Kids (Mis)Using Wireless Technology, moderated by Sharon Cindrich, Author

Privacy And Legal Issues With Children's Online Safety, moderated by Samir Jain, Wilmer Hale

The day’s sessions looked at how today’s wireless devices allow consumers to do a lot more than just make phone calls, meaning that mobile online safety has to become part of the wider discussion around online safety and how to keep our kids safe while they create content, contact peers, surf and share-on-the-move. We discussed how these capabilities now offer wireless users safety and convenience but also present certain risks, especially for children.

Click here to view the agenda for this session.

Click Here to view the panel summaries.

15th April, 2009. Online on Wednesday with FOSI.

The Second Panel Session in the highly-acclaimed "Online on Wednesday " Series from the Family Online Safety Institute

Go to FOSI's YouTube Channel to Learn More

The Family Online Safety Institute held their second “Online on Wednesday” panel at the new Capitol Visitor Center. Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI moderated a discussion on online safety education in schools that focused on what is being done and what needs to be done to protect kids.

Bill Modzeleski with the Department of Education spoke to the audience for 10 minutes about education from a 35, 000 foot view and tied his comments into how the offline education world also applies to how students, teachers and administrators function in the cyber world. Both Stephen and Bill thanked AT&T for supporting the Hill panel series.

Speakers on the panel included Marsali Hancock with iKeepSafe, Jim Teicher with CyberSmart! and Laurie Nathan with NetSmartz who discussed student behaviors online, including cyberbullying, texting and sexting. Panelists mentioned how schools play an important role in teaching students to be good digital citizens, but that schools are only part of the answer. Parents, the community, government, ISPs and law enforcement all need to work together.

There were over 30 people present for the panel, including representatives from Cable in the Classroom, Yahoo!, NCMEC, Nominum, Eluminate, PFF, a reporter with Washington Internet Daily and five House staffers from offices such as Rep. Fallin and Rep. Reichert.

FOSI has been receiving very positive feedback from panelists and attendees that the panels are extremely informative and a great opportunity for open discussion. The press and media are already joining in the debate with an excellent article in the Washington Internet Daily.

The next panel will be on May 13 in the same Visitor’s Center room and will cover online safety from an international perspective.

18 March, 2009. Online on Wednesday with FOSI

The Family Online Safety Institute and Rep. Melissa Bean in the first "Online on Wednesday" Panel Series


Rep. Melissa Bean

On Wednesday, March 18, FOSI held the first ‘Online on Wednesday’ panel on Capitol Hill. Stephen Balkam moderated a discussion on the state of online safety and what the new Congress and the new Administration should do to better protect kids on the Internet. Panelists included:

 Brent Olson, AT&T
 Leslie Dunlap, Yahoo!
 Ed Palmieri, Sprint

Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL) was present at the event and spoke to the group about the legislation she has proposed on this topic and why she has been so involved in online safety issues. After Rep. Bean spoke, the panelists discussed how Congress has passed meaningful legislation, but that the legislation lacks proper funding to support programs. Panelists also touched on the need to pull together the latest online safety challenges, as well as the efforts of the industry, government and non-profit sector.

April’s topic will focus on online safety educational efforts and programs in our schools.



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