Nov. 15, 2018
8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Nov. 15, 2018
8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
On Thursday, November 15th, FOSI held its 2018 Annual Conference, “Creating a Culture of Responsibility Online.” The event was opened by FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam and Sheldon Himelfarb, President and CEO of PeaceTech Lab. Both spoke about the societal responsibility that has come with the rapid evolution of our connected life and the need to ensure that development in this space must be crafted in a way that can be positive.
The morning began with the launch of FOSI’s newest research, “Online Safety Across the Generations.” The study, conducted by Hart Research Associates with the support of Comcast, explored intergenerational attitudes toward connected life among parents and seniors, and how technology use is bringing families closer together. Data showed that, while concerns about security and the potential harms of social media are prevalent, the majority of families experience better communication as a result of technology use.
View the full report, executive summary, and research slides on our research page.
The research presentation was moderated by broadcast journalist Eun Yang, first in discussion with researchers Abigail Davenport and Jay Campbell from Hart Associates, followed by a panel discussion with representatives from Comcast, Project GOAL, the Brookings Institution, and Wilkes Strategies. This was an in-depth exploration of the data and how it pertained to families, particularly in regards to the ways that senior tech users can stay secure, and the need for parents to have reliable resources such as educational materials and parental controls. Panelists also discussed the study’s intentional oversampling of minority and low-income households, and the need for all groups to have access to the Internet in order to compete in areas like education and employment.
In a one-on-one fireside chat, Stephen Balkam and Brian Huseman, Amazon’s Vice President of Public Policy, discussed topics across the safety spectrum from an industry perspective. From the ways that products are being designed for families and kids, Huseman described the ways that even the most common and popular products, such as Alexa, are being developed with safety priorities in mind. Alexa now includes features that can teach kids to interact politely with digital assistants, rewarding commands that include ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. In light of consumer concerns about privacy, Huseman said, “You can see in the app every single utterance made to Alexa, and you can choose to delete it or not. That paired with the Parental Dashboard mades for a very customer-centric experience when it comes to privacy.”
The last morning plenary session, How to Create a Culture of Responsibility, brought together international perspectives from Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, the EU Commission’s Gail Kent, and Ranjana Kumari of India’s Center for Social Research. This discussion explored online safety challenges from a global perspective; the group covered topics around the ways that content can be viewed differently in certain cultural contexts, but also emphasized how many challenges were universal for everyone. There was consensus that reducing toxicity on online platforms must come from the way they are designed, with safety in mind preventatively, not reactively. Parenting was another primary topic, with the need for strong parental engagement needed as a universal tool to teach kids responsible online behavior, no matter what geography or form of connection they may have.
Morning breakout sessions covered a variety of topics, starting with with Promoting Digital Resilience and Wellbeing, which took a look at the programs, initiatives, and guidance available for keeping online interactions as positive as possible, especially for young users. Experts in government and law enforcement discussed their approach to addressing illegal and harmful content in Tackling the Worst of the Web, how they’re using tech tools to aid in investigation, how they work with government and law enforcement to bring justice for perpetrators of abuse, and how they address the mental health of analysts who must interact with illegal abuse content.
The State of Online Privacy discussed the implications of the European GDPR and debated the different approaches and efficacy of data protection in Europe versus the United States. Companies expressed concern about the ‘patchwork’ of privacy laws being adopted across the states, while those working on the GDPR discussed the challenge of translating guidance and structure around policy regarding minors in a practical way. The Net Parent Trap delved into the relatable challenges of digital parenting and the ways that families navigate the digital world, from enforcing rules with young kids to starting tough conversations with secretive teens. Cyber ethics and student data privacy were discussed, as well as technical resources such as parental controls and monitoring apps.
Following breaks for lunch and networking sessions, participants reconvened for a second set of afternoon breakout sessions geared towards both the human and technical side of safety challenges. The Are You Game? panel, moderated by FOSI Board Chair Patricia Vance of ESRB discussed the prevalence of regular gaming among connected teens, and how this affects moderation, parenting, safety, and the use of games in education. Smart, Safe, and Balanced: The New Tech Solutions focused on similar priorities from the perspective of industry, with representatives from Google, Comcast, Mattel, and Verizon discussing their approach to developing tools for families to control access to the Internet and ensure online balance. Watching the Moderators convened experts in security and moderation to share both the technical, algorithmic side of content moderation, while also recognizing the need for (and room for potential error by) human moderation.
The Ethics of Emerging Technologies was an interactive session designed to hear from audience attendees about their thoughts on tech ethics, with a particular focus on some of the new capabilities of artificial intelligence. This session firstly covered the existential issues of how technology is changing the human experience - impacting spontaneity, identity, and the way people relate. From there, moderator Jenny Backus led the group through a slate of topics, from users’ personal relationships with technology (the health implications of living with ‘real life’ versus life on screens) and how tech culture has impacted social norms. More broadly, the discussion expanded to include a practical, outward facing focus of how people can be empowered to ask the right questions of companies regarding data collection and other consumer privacy issues.
Following the afternoon breakout sessions, conference attendees reconvened for keynote remarks from Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips. The Commissioner’s speech, “COPPA at Twenty: The American Approach to Protecting Children’s Privacy,” gave an analysis of the history and evolution of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, his perspective on privacy priorities as Commissioner, and what lies ahead for the United States’ approach to protecting children’s privacy.
The highly anticipated Hooked on Tech? panel brought together a group of experts with backgrounds in research, academics, children’s programming and government to speak about how society’s rapidly increased connectivity is impacting online safety, child development, and digital parenting. Moderated by Mary Jordan of the Washington Post, this panel spoke about one of the most contested topics of 2018: screen time. Following a year of research studies and news headlines touting the negative effects of tech “addiction” and heavy screen use, these panelists dissected the nature of society’s relationship with technology, the effects on children’s development from a scientific standpoint, the intentional product design that keep young people engaged, to the ‘parent shaming’ experienced by those who let kids use tech heavily for entertainment purposes rather than education.
The final plenary session of the day began with an address by First Lady of the United States Melania Trump, who gave brief remarks on her dedication to the issues of cyber safety and digital citizenship as cornerstones of her BeBest Initiative. Following her remarks, the First Lady and FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam conducted an interview-style discussion with four teen panelists who are anti-bullying advocates. Three teens were there representing Microsoft’s Council for Digital Good, as well as social entrepreneur Trisha Prabhu, who created the citizenship-minded ReThink app.
Watch the full conference live stream on FOSI’s YouTube channel.
Watch the First Lady’s address.
Read the White House readout of the First Lady’s visit.
To view press about the event, visit our news page.
This panel of experts will react and respond to FOSI’s Online Generation Gap research with detailed analysis of the findings and discussion of how to reach different communities with online safety resources.
The second plenary panel will explore the ways in which different countries approach creating a culture of responsibility. Incorporating government, industry, law enforcement, teachers, parents, and the kids themselves is vital to ensuring online safety for all. The panel will feature representatives from Australia, India, and the European Union.
The programs, initiatives, and individual actions that work to combat negative experiences online will be the focus of this discussion. Panelists will also talk about the best ways to empower children and promote digital wellbeing within families and society as a whole.
The panel will look at how companies, civil society, government and law enforcement can work together to prevent online sexual abuse and human trafficking. What is currently being done, what more can be done, and how we can all play a role in preventing illegal activity online will be discussed in detail during this session.
This panel will examine the impact of the European General Data Protection Regulation on companies and on the protection of children’s data. It will also cover new US privacy proposals and self-regulatory efforts to ensure online privacy.
The panelists will discuss the role of parents in ensuring that their children access the very best of the Internet. They will examine the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the digital age, with a focus on methods and tools that can be used.
The popularity of gaming among children and parents alike will be explored in detail during this panel. Hear about the advancement of parental tools, the latest in community moderation techniques, the growth of the e-sports market, use of games in education, and more.
The difficult decisions that are facing moderators working with online content will be the subject of this panel. How the decisions are made, the ways companies are thinking about the issues, and the potential of technology will be debated by experienced online moderators.
As technology advances, so do the difficult ethical questions. This interactive discussion will incorporate the audience to examine some of today’s hardest questions.
Are we addicted to our cell phones? Do we need to take a break from the laptop? The final plenary of the day will delve into these questions with experts and explore the research that exists, whether legislation is needed, and what industry has done in response.
For more information about Catherine and How to Break Up With Your Phone (including free resources such as challenges, answers to FAQ and lock screen images), please visit phonebreakup.com.