Family Online Safety Institute

The Family Online Safety Institute is an international nonprofit organization. It is registered as a 501 tax-deductible nonprofit charity in the United States and a registered charity in the United Kingdom. FOSI was founded in February 2007 by Stephen Balkam, who had created the Internet Content Rating Association. FOSI is chaired by Dave Pierce, Vice President of Public Affairs, NCTA.


The Family Online Safety Institute is a membership-based organization, members pay an annual stipend to FOSI. In turn FOSI uses this funding for its general operation and to further its goals and mission. Each of the FOSI members have a representative on the Board of Directors.
Full members of FOSI include prominent American and British companies. Members include
France Telecom,
Entertainment Software Association,
GSM Association,
National Cable & Telecommunications Association,
KCOM Group,
T-Mobile USA,
Time Warner Cable,
CTIA – The Wireless Association,
Vodafone and


FOSI's objective is to make the online world safer for children and their families. One of the primary ways it does this is with its annual conferences and other events that bring together the three major sectors involved in this mission: government, corporate, and nonprofit. FOSI hosts round tables discussions about progress in the field on online safety.

Culture of Responsibility

One of FOSI's main initiatives is to create a "Culture of Responsibility" online; whereby different, but overlapping layers of society work in a coordinated effort, while ensuring that children have their fundamental rights protected online and increasing the various layers' responsibilities.
FOSI believes that parents and schools need to protect children from the potential dangers on the Internet, keeping them safe from harm - which FOSI believes is a fundamental right. These rights include protection from physical, psychological, or reputational harm, in addition to the rights of privacy, free speech and freedom of expression.
In addition to these liberties, FOSI would like to see six layers of society accept new responsibilities. FOSI's recommendations include:
FOSI encourages greater digital and media literacy programs to help create a safer Internet. Digital literacy meaning understanding the actual machines and technology that consumers use, such as the PC, laptop, gaming system, cell phone or wireless device. Media literacy means understanding how to use the content that flows through these machines.

3 C's: Content, Contact, and Conduct

Part of FOSI's "Culture of Responsibility" is what they call the "3 C's". Society needs to help children make wise choices about the content they seek out and post online; about whom they contact and who they allow to contact them; and how they conduct themselves on the Internet. Children need to be empowered and encouraged to make better decisions so that their actions in the online world are similar to their actions in the offline world - a distinction, FOSI believes, children don't always make.

Events and annual conferences

Annual conferences


The Family Online Safety Institute's 2013 Annual Conference will be taking place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, in Washington DC. This year’s conference, being held on November 6 and 7, will bring together the top thinkers in online safety: academics, educators, law enforcement, industry, policy makers, and non-profits.


FOSI's 2012 Annual Conference, "A Safer Internet For All" was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC on November 14–15, 2012. The conference featured over 80 speakers, 20 exhibitors and more than 450 attendees from at least 14 different countries.
Notable speakers included Karen Cator, Nancy Lublin, Constance M. Yowell of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Howard J. Schaffer, and Dr. Michael Rich from the Center on Media and Child Health.


FOSI's 2011 Annual Conference, "Evaluate. Innovate. Collaborate. Strategies for Safe and Healthy Online Use" was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC on November 9–10, 2011. The conference featured over 80 speakers, 26 exhibitors and more than 450 attendees from 13 different countries.
Notable speakers included Dominican Republic Vice President Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, Dr. Edward Amoroso of AT&T, and Michael Altschul of CTIA – The Wireless Association.


FOSI's 2010 Annual Conference, "Internet Freedom, Safety and Citizenship: A Global Call to Action" was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC on November 9–10, 2010. The conference had 400 attendees, 90 speakers and 31 exhibitors from 13 countries.
Notable speakers included Microsoft's Peter Cullen, Tami Erwin of Verizon Wireless, Anna M. Gomez of National Cable & Telecommunications Association, United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Josh Gottheimer, and Karen Cator.


FOSI's 2009 Annual Conference, "Building a Culture of Responsibility: From Online Safety to Digital Citizenship," was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC on November 4–5, 2009. The conference had 350 attendees, 80 speakers and 31 exhibitors from 15 countries. Technology writer and journalist, Larry Magid described the event as "a watershed moment in the 16-year history of online safety education."


FOSI's 2008 Annual Conference, "Safe at Any Speed: Online Safety Tools, Rules and Public Policies", was held at the Newseum in Washington, DC on December 11, 2008. At the conference, FOSI made a series of recommendations for the new Obama Administration and called for:
The conference included over 300 attendees from 4 continents, 11 countries, and featured 60 speakers on 11 expert panels and 22 exhibitors.


FOSI held its inaugural annual conference "Rights and Responsibility: Child Protection in a Web 2.0 World" on December 6, 2007 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. The conference was covered by C-SPAN. Over 200 attendees joined together to raise awareness about the challenges facing our society to keep children safe in the new digital world. The participants paid particular attention to currently evolving solutions to online safety issues.
Notable speakers included Google Vice President and Chief Internal Evangelist Vint Cerf, U.S. Ambassador David Gross, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Deborah Tate and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras.
Sponsors for the Conference include Verizon, AT&T, GSMA, RuleSpace, Crisp Thinking, Symantec, Google, Blue Coat, Comcast, CTIA, Microsoft, CompTIA, AOL and

2013 events

In 2007, FOSI was created and subsumed the Internet Content Rating Association and its day-to-day operations. ICRA developed and implemented a content labeling system that allows webmasters to clearly and accurately label their websites. These labels identify content in accordance with criteria developed by an independent third party. In accordance with FOSI goals, ICRA does not serve to rate the content of websites. ICRA provides the labeling system and encourages content providers to self-rate.


In October 2010, the ICRA labeling engine was discontinued by FOSI. FOSI has withdrawn all support for the ICRA rating system and taken down all documentation for labeling websites with ICRA ratings.