Trust & Assurance: Online Safety in an Uncertain World
On November 14th, FOSI hosted its first in-person Annual Conference since 2019. Entitled “Trust & Assurance: Online Safety in an Uncertain World,” this event featured discussions about the increasing importance of trust and safety work across the tech industry as well as the seismic impact that age assurance processes will have on apps and services we use every day. The day featured leaders from the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors speaking about children’s rights, content moderation, the intersection of privacy and safety, mental health and wellbeing, parenting in a digital world, and much more.
Tami Bhaumik, Vice President of Civility and Partnerships at Roblox, and Chair of the FOSI Board, started the day by giving a welcome address and Stephen Balkam gave opening remarks.
The morning began with the release of FOSI’s new research, “Making Sense of Age Assurance: Enabling Safer Online Experiences,” conducted by Kantar and made possible through support from Google. Chris Carbone and Jillian Domin of Kantar presented highlights from the research, which surveyed children and parents across the US, UK, and France. Some key findings included the high level of engagement and responsibility that parents feel in managing their kids’ online experiences, the attitudes of kids and parents toward the use of biometric components in age assurance methods, and balancing the tradeoff between effectiveness and invasiveness.
After presenting the research, Carbone joined Almudena Lara of Google and Julie Dawson of Yoti for a conversation to further discuss the report, moderated by Tim Sparapani of SPQR Strategies. The panel dug deeper into the findings of the report, and discussed their implications on companies’ efforts to determine user age in order to provide age appropriate experiences, as well as how governments can weave age assurance requirements into their online safety policy work.
Following a short networking break, the first plenary session featured parents discussing how they navigate their kids’ digital lives. Catherine Teitelbaum of Amazon Kids moderated the conversation with Avi Greengart of Techsponential, Kerry Gallagher of St. John’s Prep and ConnectSafely, Alicia Blum-Ross of Twitch, and Terrell and Jarius Joseph, who are parents and influencers. The discussion covered many phases of childhood from establishing healthy tech habits for young children to how to have difficult conversations about navigating all aspects of online life with teenagers. The panelists highlighted certain online safety features, helpful resources developed for families, and personal tips for how to thrive as a modern family with unique digital lives.
The morning breakout sessions gave attendees the option to attend one of four distinct panel discussions. One explored the impact of technology on child development through each developmental cycle of a child’s life and how teachers, parents, and caregivers can navigate tech use through the formative years. Another focused on children’s rights from a global perspective, discussing the importance of online privacy and safety, but also fun and learning in young peoples’ lives. A third panel highlighted many trust and safety challenges online platforms face today and discussed federal and state policies that target some of these challenges, including content moderation. The final morning breakout panel covered online gaming, and discussed new developments in the gaming world from apps to consoles and new safety controls, as well as game design, age ratings, streaming platforms, and educational opportunities.
After lunch and time for attendees to network and view the exhibit booths, the afternoon breakout sessions began. One covered mental health and digital wellbeing and highlighted existing research, as well as the need for much more research in this space, and panelists discussed the nuanced benefits and risks that young people face online. The policy panel discussed the challenges and opportunities of regulating online safety and privacy, highlighting the many legislative efforts in the US right now as well as examining international efforts to include safety and privacy by design and designing age-appropriate online experiences. A third panel featured a diverse group of tech companies discussing their innovative solutions to online safety including family settings and parental controls, curated content targeted to make a positive impact in young peoples’ lives, and more. And the fourth breakout panel discussed media literacy in schools, government and industry efforts to close the digital divide including the Affordable Connectivity Program, and the necessity for access to resources and support for consumers of all ages to better equip all members of the family in identifying misinformation and disinformation.
The afternoon plenary sessions began with a featured conversation between Dr. Shairi Turner of Crisis Text Line and Savannah Badalich of Discord. They discussed how teens and young people use Discord to communicate with friends, family, and find communities, and shared internal research about how teens reach out for help in digital spaces, with the goal of providing the right people and resources in the right places to those online who may be struggling with mental health.
The next plenary session included a fireside chat between Tracy Elizabeth of TikTok and a father-daughter duo of content creators, Billy and Dru Perry. This conversation covered a range of topics including how parents can engage with the same apps, sites, and platforms as their kids, finding common ground when disagreeing, and having honest family conversations around online habits and healthy digital lives.
After a brief break, FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya delivered remarks from the main stage. He discussed protecting teens’ mental health through better privacy protections, designing products and experiences in the best interest of a child, and improving expertise within regulatory bodies (including hiring child psychologists in law enforcement and at the FTC).
The penultimate panel discussed the metaverse and immersive online experiences. David Ryan Polgar of All Tech is Human moderated the conversation that featured Tami Bhaumik of Roblox, Stephanie Montgomery of the XRA, Kristina Podnar of XRSI, and Dr. Louis Rosenberg of Unanimous AI. The panel presented optimism about the future of technology and online interaction, and discussed the opportunities for industry, policymakers, parents, and advocates to cooperate, collaborate, and create technology and online spaces we would all want to engage with.
The final panel of the day featured the announcement of the newly formed Global Online Safety Regulators Network. The four founding members of the network, Celene Craig of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Dame Melanie Dawes of the UK’s Ofcom, Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, and Mary Motofaga of Fiji’s Online Safety Commission were joined by FOSI’s Stephen Balkam to discuss the network, what they hope to accomplish, how other countries can join and collaborate, and the prospects of a safer global Internet.
Video recordings of the plenary sessions are available on the FOSI YouTube channel.
Photos from the event can be found on the Event Media Gallery.
Thank you to our sponsors:
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin
Registration, Breakfast & Exhibits
Welcome & Opening Remarks
- Tami Bhaumik, Roblox (FOSI Board Chair)
- Stephen Balkam, FOSI
Launch of "Making Sense of Age Assurance: Enabling Safer Online Experiences" Research Report
- Chris Carbone, Kantar
- Jillian Domin, Kantar
First Look: Experts React to New FOSI Research
Experts reflected on FOSI’s new study, which surveyed parents and kids across the US, UK, and France on topics around safety, privacy, and age assurance. Panelists shared initial reactions to the findings and provided insights on this complex issue. The discussion delved into key statistics, considered the broader implications for age assurance and online safety, and considered how best to educate parents and consumers.
- Chris Carbone, Kantar
- Julie Dawson, Yoti
- Almudena Lara, Google
- Tim Sparapani, SPQR Strategies (moderator)
Networking & Exhibits
Modern Family: Today’s Parents on Navigating Kids’ Digital Lives
Parenting is a tall order, and managing your family’s tech habits can make it even more challenging. We heard diverse perspectives on how real parents and experts make conscious, thoughtful decisions about devices, screen time, and media for their families. We heard from Amazon Kids partners and affiliates Terrell and Jarius Joseph, parents of 5-year old twins (and major social media influencers), Avi Greengart, parent of five kids between the ages of 9 – 22 (president/lead analyst of Techsponential), Kerry Gallagher, parent to a 10 and 13 year old (Education Director for ConnectSafely), Alicia Blum-Ross, parent of 9-year old twins (Senior Director of Global Youth Policy at Twitch), and moderator Catherine Teitelbaum, parent of a 16-year old (Head of Family Trust at Amazon Kids).
- Alicia Blum-Ross, Twitch
- Terrell and Jarius Joseph, Influencers & Parents
- Kerry Gallagher, St. John’s Preparatory School & ConnectSafely
- Avi Greengart, Techsponential
- Catherine Teitelbaum, Amazon Kids (moderator)
Morning Breakout Sessions
Inside a Child’s Mind: Tech Use Through the Formative Years
This panel explored the impact of technology on children’s development from early ages to young adulthood. Speakers discussed how tech has influenced social-emotional development, how it has resulted in innovative STEM practices in classrooms, and what psychological trends have emerged throughout the pandemic. Panelists also spoke to the future of technology and human development, discussing areas where more research is needed within the field.
- Rebecca Parlakian, Zero to Three
- Michael Preston, Sesame Workshop
- Dr. Michael Rich, Digital Wellness Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital (moderator)
- Dr. Ellen Selkie, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Children’s Rights: A Global Perspective
Technology plays an intrinsic role in the lives of children from an early age as they begin to play, communicate, and learn in our highly connected world. Putting their interests first means collaboration by tech stakeholders to encourage responsible, privacy-driven innovation, and the creation of beneficial online spaces that emphasize wellbeing. Panelists discussed best practices including the importance of involving children as active participants in the design and construction of online experiences.
- Charlotte Aynsley, Digital Safeguarding Consultant (moderator)
- Mindy Brooks, Google
- Jasmina Byrne, UNICEF
- Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics
- Lisa Robinson, OECD
Grappling With Trust and Safety Challenges
Who is responsible for the content we see online? How do filtering or algorithmic technologies versus human moderators impact scale and implementation? Can we effectively regulate what is shown to certain users, especially as we consider the many different types of content being uploaded in massive quantities to platforms each day? This panel spoke to these questions and more as experts considered the efficacy of current approaches to content moderation and possibilities for the future.
- Alexandra Reeve Givens, Center for Democracy and Technology (moderator)
- Iftach Orr, ActiveFence
- Matthew Schruers, CCIA
- Matthew Soeth, Spectrum Labs
- Adam Thierer, Technology Policy Analyst
Mindful Approaches to Online Gaming
Advancing technologies, diverse content and subject matter, and improved safety features are all recent developments within the world of games. Research shows that gaming communities serve as a place for young people to be creative, and connect - but there are also safety concerns. This panel explored ways to enhance the benefits and navigate the risks of gaming, including topics around the age and content rating system, the gaming regulatory landscape, and general safety best practices.
- Yan Perng, Tencent
- Arana Shapiro, Games For Change
- Pat Vance, ESRB
- Andrew Zack, FOSI (moderator)
Lunch, Exhibits and Networking
Sponsored by Comcast
Afternoon Breakout Sessions
Health & Wellbeing in a Hybrid World
Panelists discussed the term “digital wellbeing” and what it means for youth, in particular. The panel considered insights from current data and reflected on areas where more support is needed. Topics included best practices for industry to raise awareness of tools meant to support users, how parents, caregivers, and educators can help to ensure children’s safe online experiences, and other strategies to promote positivity and mitigate mental and physical health risks in online spaces.
- Dr. Kara Bagot, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai
- Janell Burley Hoffman (moderator)
- TJ Donovan, Roblox
- Dr. Melissa Mercado, CDC
- Em Skehill, Mental Health America
How Do We Effectively Regulate Online Safety and Privacy?
Despite recent progress to pass an online safety bill (KOSA), update a children’s privacy law (COPPA 2.0), and establish comprehensive privacy protections (ADPPA), the US does not have any comprehensive data privacy laws nor online safety laws at the federal level. The UK has enacted a world-first Age Appropriate Design Code that prioritizes the best interests of children, and is working on a significant Online Safety Bill. Combined with actions in the EU and Australia, online safety and privacy are some of the most important policy areas in the world right now. This panel discussed local, national, and international policies, including their impact on users’ daily lives.
- Bennett Butler, Office of Senator Ed Markey
- Stacy Feuer, ESRB
- Jim Kohlenberger, Trusted Future (moderator)
- Lauren Merk, Future of Privacy Forum
- Ella Serry, eSafety Commissioner, Australia
Innovation and Awareness: New Solutions to Online Safety
Experts shared the top tech advancements and innovations from the past year around keeping kids safe online. From educational efforts to the design of technical tools and features, this was an opportunity for discussion about which approaches work best when it comes to prioritizing safety, raising awareness, and planning for the future.
- Shanta Arul, Netflix
- Jennifer Ihegword, Mattel, Inc
- Ashley Johnson, ITIF (moderator)
- Anup Kaneri, SmithMicro
- Kip Wainscott, Snap Inc.
Media Literacy Across the Generations
In today’s digital world, it is vital that all users practice critical thinking when using any form of media. Panelists spoke about how to develop and use media literacy skills, and highlight how media literacy is a crucial element to strengthening people’s understanding of news coverage, healthcare information, safety threats, and other important topics. Media literacy applies to everyone from young children to grandparents, and this panel will discuss the importance of creating a media literate society.
- Sara DePaul, AT&T
- Jamie Gregory, HS Teacher/Librarian
- Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa, FCC
- Michelle Lipkin, NAMLE (moderator)
- Kathy Stokes, AARP
Discord & Crisis Text Line: A Partnership to Meet Teens Where They Are
The internet has fundamentally changed the ways in which we connect with others. Teens are at the forefront of each new innovation in the digital space, and their mental health must be woven into how we build these spaces. Experts from Discord and Crisis Text Line shared insights about how mental health is showing up in online communities, the unique ways teens reach out for help in digital spaces, and the role we all can play in creating a healthier digital ecosystem. We explored how partnerships such as those between Discord and Crisis Text Line can support our youth both online and off.
- Dr. Shairi Turner, MD, MPH, Crisis Text Line
- Savannah Badalich, Discord
Family Engagement: Empowering Parents & Caregivers To Have Digital Safety Conversations
TikTok's Head of Issue Policy, Trust & Safety Tracy Elizabeth, discussed how to effectively foster healthy engagement with young people and why this engagement is critical to authentically bolstering safety, facilitating family bonds, and providing psychological stability for teens.
Tracy was joined by TikTok creators, dad and daughter duo @billyvsco (11M followers) and @dru.perry (320K followers), to also explore how families can "adopt" youth who don't have active caregivers in their lives, and the ways different parenting styles and personalities approach engaging with them about online safety.
- Tracy Elizabeth, TikTok
- Billy Perry, Content Creator
- Dru Perry, Content Creator
Networking & Exhibits
Keynote - Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, Federal Trade Commission
From AR to Avatars: Navigating Safety in the Metaverse
How is the metaverse evolving, and how do we ensure that users are kept safe? Panelists discussed current experiences in the metaverse, the use of augmented and virtual reality, and the potential benefits and challenges we collectively face in this new realm. Panelists reflected on the role that industry, policymakers, parents, and advocates play as this technology continues to advance.
- Tami Bhaumik, Roblox
- Stephanie Montgomery, XRA
- Kristina Podnar, XRSI
- David Ryan Polgar, All Tech is Human (moderator)
- Dr. Louis Rosenberg, Unanimous A.I.
A New Regulatory Collaboration: Launching the Global Online Safety Regulators Network
The global digital landscape is rapidly evolving, with the pendulum swinging towards a greater focus on online safety by governments and industry alike. We heard from the first movers in online safety regulation: Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Fiji’s Online Safety Commission, and Ofcom in the UK. In addition, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) outlined Ireland’s future move into online safety regulation in Europe. In this panel, these four regulators came together to discuss the way forward for online safety regulation around the world, and launched the Global Online Safety Regulators Network.
- Stephen Balkam, FOSI (moderator)
- Celene Craig, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
- Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom, United Kingdom
- Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, Australia
- Mary Motofaga, Online Safety Commission, Fiji