2013 FOSI European Forum

May 20, 2013


The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international non-profit membership organization working to develop a safer Internet, held their Annual European Forum in Google’s EMEA HQ in Dublin, giving recognition to Ireland’s place as an important base for global digital brand leaders during “European Year of the Digital Citizen”.

FOSI brings together Internet safety advocates from a variety of sectors, including global corporations, government, non-profits, academia and the media, to discuss the current pulse of online safety and develop new solutions to keep children safe in our Web 2.0 world.

FOSI are advocates of making the Internet Safer through educating parents, children, schools and other stakeholders on child privacy and how to avoid harmful content and behaviour online such as: cyber-bullying, ‘sexting’, pornography.

This year’s edition of the FOSI European Forum focused on online safety, data protection and privacy. In the opening of the Forum, the Irish Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald stated: “Chains and censorship were not the way to go with books – and we need to think long and hard before we try to apply the same approach to the online world. (…) it is important, not just that we protect our children from pornography and violence in the online world, but that we control its capacity to torture, degrade and terrify. (…) Today is about advancing the privacy and data protection debate in Ireland and Europe. But I’m delighted to see that it’s about much more than that. It’s about finding ways to promote a culture of responsibility online and encourage as sense of digital citizenship. (…) We’ve got to control the worst and promote the best. (You will note that I said it was simple. Not that it was easy!)”

Following the Minister’s keynote address, Stephen Balkam CEO of FOSI launched a new initiative for Parents, Teachers and Teens called “Platform for Good”, a valuable resource for those seeking to educate children and teens on positive Internet use.

To address the three main topics of the Forum: online safety, data protection and privacy, three separate panels were held to focus on the issues surrounding each of these subjects.

Among the Guest Speakers present were representatives from the European Commission, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google, leading researchers.

The role of the CEO coalition was discussed, as well as the importance of awareness and education, and the necessity of giving parents tools to make decisions for their own families.

To close the event, UK MP Claire Perry, gave a keynote address to highlight some of the areas of concern in the UK, and to emphasize particular areas of interest in her new role as Special Advisor to the UK Prime Minister on the sexualization and commercialization of childhood.

Reflecting on this conference, it is worth stating that while the ISPAI fully respect the rights of advocacy groups to seek to change the laws regarding Internet content, we would always insist that any measures implemented by the Government are given properly statutory standing and that our members will not be obliged to introduce or enforce actions which do not form part of legislation –  either in the guise of so-called “non-legislative actions” or onerous self-regulation outside of proper legal structures.

To this end we continue to advocate that families and individuals who are offended by what they view as inappropriate adult content are in the best position to ensure that they have the correct software & tools at their disposal to ensure they are free from unwanted content.

The ISPAI, always encourage our members to make these tools available to subscribers, adding value to their services and gaining competitive advantage with those concerned about access to services such as legal adult pornography, gambling and other potentially addictive content. It is not our job to regulate this area or to censor the Internet, the rights of all citizens to choose the type of legal content they want to access has to be respected.

FOSI are to be commended in the work they do as advocates for positive family and child safety and content provision. However, any changes to enforcement is properly done through changes in the law after the full involvement and consideration of the rights of all interest groups.

‟ISPs should never be expected to apply standards of enforcement which are not in law and which can undermine democracy and civil liberties. As an industry we will continue to play our part to ensure that illegal content is taken down from servers here. This being said, we feel the need to stress the distinction between illegal content and content that is legal though it might be considered as inappropriate by some members of the society. We have always taken a strong stance against illegal content, by running Hotline.IE and by contributing our membership fees to INHOPE, to ensure effective international cooperation.

“Notice & Takedown” of illegal content is in our view the best way in the battle to eradicate illegal content.” ISP’s should never be placed in the role of self-governed censors so government can side-step their role of determining what content is appropriate for citizens to access.” – Paul Durrant (CEO, ISPAI & Manager of Hotline.IE)