‘Online Safety in Transition' - Family Online Safety Institute Annual Conference 2016

Cyberbullying, cyber ethics and hate speech, as well as the world of connected toys, good digital parenting and online privacy, were key concepts discussed during the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) Annual Conference, held on 1 December 2016 in Washington DC.

Kicking off with a presentation about online safety recommendations for the current transition of the political scene, Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, focused on the impact and reach that social media is having on the development of our world. The discussion continued with an overview and analysis of the joint white paper produced by FOSI and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), ‘Kids and the Connected Home: Privacy in the Age of Connected Dolls, Talking Dinosaurs, and Battling Robots. This white paper explores the landscape of connected toys including how toys connect to platforms and servers and the variety of types of connected toys. It also provides background on where the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) may apply for toymakers and technology providers, and has recommendations for safeguarding children's data and informing parents.

Against this background, another engaging report was presented by the Data & Society Research Institute and Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, looking at 'Online Harassment, Digital Abuse and Cyberstalking in America'. This report is based on a nationally-representative telephone survey and offers the first-ever national data on the prevalence of many types of online harassment and abuse among American internet users aged 15 and older.

During the conference, other top-line speakers included FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell, Congresswomen Susan Brooks and Katherine Clark, as well as industry leaders from many of the top tech companies including Facebook, Google, AT&T, Netflix and Microsoft. Academics, NGO leaders and child psychologists also participated, with various exhibitors additionally showcasing their online safety technologies and educational efforts.

The first set of breakout panels included ‘Reaching and Teaching Good Digital Parents', ‘The Internet of Families', and ‘Politics, Policies & Online Privacy'. The second set of breakout panels included ‘Tech Solutions to Challenging Online Behaviors', ‘New Frontiers: AI and Machine Learning', ‘Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality', and ‘Responding to Extremist Messaging and Behaviour'.

Furthermore, in the afternoon plenary panel ‘Online Safety: Think Globally, Act Locally', Hans Martens, coordinator of the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres in Europe, took part by presenting the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) line of work, as well as Insafe network resources and activities. As indicated in the FOSI Annual Conference overview, "speakers agreed on the difficulty of applying policy globally when the standard for what is offensive online can differ greatly by country and region, again highlighting the importance of local partnerships to ensure understanding of local social and political issues."

FOSI has published summaries of the keynote addresses and plenary panels, and the conference agenda including resources from speakers can be viewed here. To see video clips from the conference, visit FOSI's YouTube channel.

About FOSI
The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organisation that works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes leaders in industry, government and the non-profit sectors to collaborate and innovate new solutions and policies in the field of online safety. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all. FOSI's membership includes 30 of the leading internet and telecommunications companies around the world.

For further information on FOSI events, research and publications, see the FOSI website.

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