Paris, France – a city of love, fine wines, great cheese and the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) 2014 European Forum.
Initially, the thought of Paris playing host to such a renowned international non-profit organisation working to create a safer internet, seemed ‘magnifique!’. I had visions of strolling down the Champs Elysees, popping in to the Louvre and dining on delicious garlic-flavoured morsels ahead of the child safety organisation’s European conference.
Then I saw the exchange rate.
Within moments of our arrival my expectations plummeted to walking the streets, window shopping and munching on a stale baguette washed down with a gallon of tap water. OK, it wasn’t that bad. Pretty close though.
FOSI 2014 European Forum: Creating a better internet
The theme of this year’s forum, ‘Creating a better internet’, was eloquently introduced and hosted by FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam.
Although FOSI is well known for advocating improvements to online protection for child safety, it was interesting that the theme didn’t include the words ‘for children’. As Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft explained, “It’s no longer about just making the internet safer, it’s about making it better for everyone”.
The day was divided into a number of discussions with panelists representing many of the major players: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Virgin Media, Disney included. Of these, only Facebook used the conference as a platform to make significant public announcements.
Facebook changes image reporting and default privacy settings
Facebook’s first announcement was a radical change to how users complain against photos they find offensive and/or inappropriate. The second outlined how all new users would have their settings defaulted to ‘Friends Only’ rather than ‘Public’.
While both policy changes should be applauded, the former is particularly interesting as it’s an approach that flies in the face of accepted wisdom.
The consensus is that the ability to complain should be as easy as possible to perform, ideally with just one click. Instead Facebook has increased the number of stages required to complain about the photo to help define more clearly the issue the complainant has. The final stage is a template message, based on their specific concern, which can then be sent to the original poster (see example below).
There are many benefits to this more granular approach:
- It recognises that in many instances, the offending photo is uploaded innocently.
- The complainant can clearly identify what the issue is with the photo, instead of only being able to make a general ‘take it down’ request.
- The two parties can resolve the issue without Facebook having to take an active role.
- Having users resolve photo disputes themselves mean fewer Facebook staff need to be trained to such a high level to deal with these issues, reducing training costs.
Most impressively, according to Facebook, the statistics show a significant increase of amicable resolutions for the new system – up to 84%.
Hot topics at FOSI
Several other issues were also discussed throughout the day, such as;
- The importance of avoiding ministerial knee-jerk reactions to individual online safety issues when they become news items.
- Advocating greater parental guidance to support younger users.
- Agreeing a need to move away from one-stop home filter systems to one that enables greater flexibility for individual family members.
However, it was the timing of the conference that cast the greatest shadow over proceedings.
Not only was the conference held nine days after the European Court’s surprise ruling on the ‘Right To Be Forgotten‘ (which we’ll discuss in another blog post), it was held the same day as the European parliamentary elections – the outcome of which has the potential to affect multiple government-company policy dialogues.
EU policy differences – same problems, different answers
The elections had naturally influenced the structure of the conference with panellists discussing such topics such as ‘EU and UK Perspectives’ and ‘EU Policy in the Future’. These dialogues highlighted the differences various countries were taking to resolve the same issues.
With regards to online security for instance, the UK’s approach was to announce a new £25m government-backed campaign, ‘Internet Matters’, while France has developed ‘Living Well’, a self-regulatory system without government assistance.
In spite of these and other differences there were numerous calls throughout the day for companies to take a more global approach regarding internet security – a similar theme to the NetMundial Conference held in April in Brazil.
FOSI 2014 outtakes
But let’s end this blog with my observations and statistics:
- 70% of US parents follow their children online.
- 75% of Twitter users are from outside the US.
- Until March this year Twitter considered Czechoslovakia part of Germany (don’t ask).
- Some Americans still use the term ‘child pornography’ instead of child-abuse? I don’t know why and neither does Richard Tilt of the IWF who says he’s given up on reminding them.
- Not all social media conferences defer to a smart-casual/casual dress code. If any of the lectures are about the ‘‘EU’ or ‘Policy’, wear a shirt.
Thanks to my Emoderation colleague Martina Johnson for help with the live-tweeting, conference note-taking and stale baguette eating.
Conference picture courtesy of FOSI.