New Institute Launches to Raise Online Safety, Lower Fears For Families

February 12, 2007

Washington, D.C. (Feb 13, 2007) - In today's world of Web 2.0, where social network and user-generated content reign, and where the Internet is available from your phone, your PSP and your Nintendo Wii, the need to protect children from the worst while directing them to the best of the Web is more important than ever. And that's why the Internet Content Rating Association, the world's leading content labeling system on the Internet, will become the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). FOSI will make the ICRA family of products and services part of a broader and deeper mission to incorporate technology, events, public policy and education.

"Every day, there's a story about how people are finding new ways to access pornography and other inappropriate content on the Internet," said Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI. "The Nintendo Wii had been out less than two months before someone found out how to use it to look at porn. In this always-on, digital world, we need new tools and methods to reach parents and children alike with a new safety awareness. The Institute will bring together the leading thinkers, innovative technologies, effective educators and enlightened legislators to make this a reality."

FOSI's primary vision is to increase the safety, decrease the fear and expand the benefits of our digitally connected society, particularly for children, while protecting freedom of speech and expression. The Institute will incorporate the work and mission of ICRA, becoming an umbrella body where technology and policy thought leaders meet and innovate in the field of family online safety. Balkam will lead the new Institute, and Phil Archer will continue in his role as CTO.

Because FOSI's key objective is to promote dialogue and discussion between leaders in government and technology, the North American launch of FOSI will be held at a high-profile event at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2007. The event will include participants from the online industry, the Non-Governmental Organization sector, academics and government officials. At the FOSI launch event, participants will generate a multitude of new ideas for promoting Internet safety. The morning session will include addresses by FCC commissioner Deborah Tate, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in addition to other leaders in this arena.

Attendees will also participate in two concurrent roundtables in the afternoon to delve deeper into how public policy makers, technology companies and the public education system can all work harder to protect children and families from pornography and other inappropriate content online. The roundtable discussions will be chaired by Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation and Anne Collier of Net Family News and will include commentary from AT&T, Microsoft, and representatives from UK industry and NGOs.

"The rapid evolution of the Internet and entertainment technology and the increasing availability of inappropriate content that can be accessed over multiple devices reinforces the importance of effectively educating parents and children to promote safe experiences online," said Dorothy Attwood, senior vice president of Regulatory Planning and Policy for AT&T. "AT&T applauds FOSI's leadership role in these education efforts and looks forward to continuing its active participation in this unique forum that encourages leaders in technology, public policy and government to collaborate on online safety issues."

"We all want the Internet to be a vibrant place where kids meet, communicate, create and grow together. But we need them to be safe." said Kathryn C. Brown, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Policy Development, Verizon Communications, Inc. "Businesses play a key role in developing and enhancing a child-safe Internet. We provide education, assist law enforcement, and help policy makers in developing new avenues of public-private cooperation. We should be working for solutions that depend on cooperation--not legislative mandates--to address these challenges. Verizon is proud to be partnering with the Family Online Safety Institute, continuing our work with parents, educators, policy makers, and law enforcement to protect our children online and promote effective cyber-citizenship."

The European launch will take place on Feb. 22, 2007 at the House of Commons in London.

About FOSI

The Family Online Safety Institute is an international non-profit organization that exists to identify and promote best practices, tools and methods in the field of online safety. FOSI is supported by many of the leading Internet industry players: AOL, AT&T, British Telecom, Cisco, CompTIA, GSM Association, IMSafer, Kingston Communications, Microsoft, Mpower Media, RuleSpace, Solarsoft, StreamShield, Telmex and Verizon.