A full recording of this event is available on YouTube. View it here.
On Thursday March 11, the Family Online Safety Institute hosted the latest installment of its FOSI Briefs the Hill series, “In Conversation With Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10).”
FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam moderated the conversation with the Representatives, who opened the conversation explaining why online safety is important to them, both in their representative role and within their families. Representative Wexton noted that as part of the Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship, she takes a holistic approach to online safety during her online safety conversations. Representative Trahan observed the power and promise of technology, especially during the pandemic.
Representative Trahan highlighted the importance of comprehensive privacy legislation, which is also a priority for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She called out the need for specific privacy protections for children and incorporating safety by design into products. Rep. Trahan noted promising pieces of legislation, including the KIDS Act and CAMRA, and spotlighted the United Kingdom’s Age-Appropriate Design Code. Representative Wexton spoke about the Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship, noting the importance of teaching people to be responsible users and producers of content online - no matter the age group. Both highlighted the need for media literacy education, and skill building to recognize misinformation and disinformation, online scams and online manipulation.
The importance of closing the digital divide and improving broadband connectivity was discussed, followed by each Representative giving their predictions for the new Congress, which included updates to COPPA and advancing legislation providing funding for research.
U.S. House of Representatives
Lori Trahan was born and raised in a working-class family in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her father was a union ironworker and her mother, a domestic worker, who juggled various part time jobs while raising four girls. The first in her family to graduate from college, Lori earned a scholarship to play Division 1 volleyball at Georgetown University. She joined the staff of former Congressman Marty Meehan as a scheduler, eventually working her way up to Chief of Staff. Following her public service, Lori began working in the private sector as the only female executive at a tech company before moving on to cofound a woman owned and operated consulting firm, Concire, where she advised various companies on business strategy, and how to create the ideal conditions for employees – especially women - to thrive. She and her husband, Dave, currently reside in Westford, MA and are raising two young girls, Grace and Caroline, while keeping tabs on their three grown stepsons, Thomas, Dean, and Christian.
U.S. House of Representatives
Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton has been serving the people of Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley for over two decades as a prosecutor, attorney, advocate for abused children, and state Senator. During her five years in the General Assembly, she passed more than 40 bipartisan bills, all while serving in the minority.
Now in Congress, Congresswoman Wexton has found success in working across the aisle to deliver results to better the lives of Virginia’s children and families. Wexton passed bipartisan legislative initiatives to expand funding for opioid addiction research, safeguard Americans’ retirement savings during the COVID-19 crisis, protect leave benefits for federal workers, modernize the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, allow student veterans to use their benefits to study overseas, and ensure that leaders receive information about foreign disinformation campaigns on social media aimed at undermining U.S. elections.
Congresswoman Wexton serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where she is responsible for securing funding for all of the government’s spending programs. Specifically, her subcommittee assignments focus on funding for transportation and housing, foreign operations, and the legislative branch. Wexton is also a member of the House Budget Committee, which provides oversight of the legislative budget process.
Wexton is the founder of the Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship, which aims to help better equip Americans with tools and resources to use technology and engage online responsibly in an increasingly digital world, and the bipartisan Congressional Agritourism Caucus, which supports the agritourism industry and highlights its importance to local economies and communities. Wexton is also a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, where she is working to combat human rights abuses.
A native of the Washington area, Wexton graduated with honors from the University of Maryland in College Park, and earned her law degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She lives in Leesburg with her husband, two sons, and two rescued labrador retrievers.
Founder & CEO
Family Online Safety Institute
For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in the both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.
Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.
In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.
Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.
Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.