Event Features California A.G. Kamala Harris and Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg

 Contact: Hani Khan/ (650) 346-7045/

To mark Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, February 10, will host the official U.S. event, “Safer Internet Day 2015: Actions & Activism Toward a Better Net & World at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The event will bring together technology industry leaders and hundreds of California middle school and high school students, teachers and policymakers for a discussion on Internet Safety.

The event will feature a keynote speech from California Attorney General Kamala Harris and opening comments from Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The event will also include three panels: Beyond Bullying: Dealing with Trolling & Social Cruelty; Using Technology to Effect Social Change and Wrapping It All Up: A Conversation with Industry Leaders, featuring executives from Instagram, Google and Twitter. Otha Thornton, President of the National PTA, will also speak.


WHAT:         Half-day discussion between industry leaders and teens

                        on Internet safety

WHO:            California Attorney General Kamala Harris

                        Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg

                        National PTA President Otha Thornton

                        Industry leaders from Google, Instagram and Twitter

               Co-Director Larry Magid

                        California middle school and high school students

WHEN:         Tuesday, February 10 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

(with a light meal at 5:30) Brings Together Tech Industry Leaders & Teens For A Discussion On Internet Safety

PALO ALTO, Calif., Feb. 3, 2015 – To mark Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, February 10, will host the official U.S. event, “Safer Internet Day 2015: Actions & Activism Toward a Better Net & World.” The event will bring together technology industry leaders and hundreds of California middle school and high students, parents, teachers and policymakers for a discussion on Internet safety.

The event will be streamed live on and will feature a keynote speech from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and opening comments from Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The event, which is scheduled from 1 to 5:30 p.m PST, will include three panels: Beyond Bullying: Dealing with Trolling & Social Cruelty; Using Technology to Effect Social Change and Wrapping It All Up: A Conversation with Industry Leaders, featuring executives from Instagram, Google and Twitter. Otha Thornton, President of the National PTA, will present the winner of the PTA’s #ShareAwesome video contest.  Remote participants can join the conversation by tweeting, using #SIDUS15.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated on the second Tuesday of every February in more than 100 countries. The day is designed to promote safe, effective use of the Internet and mobile technology.

“Safer Internet Day is an opportunity for all stakeholders to focus on ways to build a better Internet for people of all ages,” said co-director Larry Magid. “Youth, parents, government, industry — everyone — has a role to play when it comes to privacy, security and safety online and mobile devices. We are thrilled to represent the United States in this important global event.”

Tues Feb 10th: Safer Internet Day with Calif AG Kamala Harris and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg

In 2004, a project of the European Commission launched “Safer Internet Day,” which became an annual event held on the second Tuesday of February. This year represents the 11th Safer Internet Day, which is now being celebrated in more than 100 countries, including the United States.


California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to keynote Safer Internet Day

Last year,, the nonprofit Internet safety organization that I help run, was asked to be the U.S. host, and we launched our own inaugural event in Washington, D.C., that featured panels of youth and industry leaders plus an address by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

This year, Safer Internet Day USA (which is free and open to the public) is being held on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park with a keynote address by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris; remarks by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; three panels involving youth, industry and social activists; and a presentation by National PTA President Otha Thornton.

The U.S. theme this year is “Actions & Activism Toward a Better Net & World,” which reflects ConnectSafely’s perspective on the real meaning of Internet safety

As you’d expect at an Internet safety gathering, we have a panel, “Beyond Bullying: Dealing with Trolling & Social Cruelty” focusing on serious issues that plague the Internet and social networks. And, yes, there will be talk about privacy and security challenges that should be on everyone’s mind now that the details of our personal, social and financial lives, along with our health care and school records, are increasingly being stored on cloud servers. Even our bodies are being connected to the Internet as we strap on smartwatches that transmit data about our pulse and perspiration rates along with other bodily functions to cloud servers that could be vulnerable to all sorts of compromises.
COO Sheryl Sandberg to welcome Safer Internet Day to Facebook campus

COO Sheryl Sandberg to welcome Safer Internet Day to Facebook campus

But even as we share the best advice from industry, government and nonprofit leaders, we will remember that the title of our event is “Safer” Internet Day, not “Safe” Internet Day. That’s because no amount of precautions can possibly guarantee nothing will go wrong any more than air bags, seat belts and even safe driving can prevent all car accidents.

It’s not about avoiding all risk, but about managing the inherent risks associated with just about anything we do — in this case, using powerful and connected technologies to enhance our lives.

I’m particularly excited by the upcoming Safer Internet Day panel titled “Using Technology to Effect Social Change” because it will cover how today’s connected devices are helping people all over the planet make small and large changes to improve their lives. Whether it’s toppling oppressive regimes, helping to make local law enforcement more sensitive to the needs of their communities, or getting a traffic light installed in a busy intersection, activists around the world have found social media and mobile technology to be a powerful tool to revive that old sixties slogan, “Power to the People.”

Martin Luther King might have approved

I was thinking about this panel a couple of Mondays ago as the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Without doubt, Dr. King would have been an enthusiastic user of social media, had the tools been available in his day. He and his fellow civil rights activists would have used Twitter and Facebook to recruit volunteers, mobilize support and attract people to events just as they did with the technologies of their time — the mimeograph, the megaphone and the telephone.

King’s supporters, and the press covering them, would have used smartphones to document the atrocities they faced daily, and those images would have been just as powerful as the grainy black and white photos they produced at the time. I bet they would have used LinkedIn to drum up support among businesses and professionals. And surely they would have used Tumblr, Instagram and maybe even Snapchat to rally the support of young people, like those brave volunteers who risked, and in cases gave, their lives to help make Dr. King’s “Dream” a real possibility.

But one thing King would almost certainly have not done was to rely on “clictivism,” a term for social change campaigns that rely on people simply liking a cause or checking an online box to express their opinion or outrage. He would have still organized sit-ins, boycotts, nonviolent demonstrations and, of course, that massive March on Washington — because he would have known that technology alone can’t bring about social change. For that you need dedication, hard work, organizers in the streets, the willingness to take real risks, and the energy of the people.

I’ll be thinking about Martin Luther King on Safer Internet Day because — just as he was trying to build a better, kinder and more just nation — we’re united beyond the global theme of creating “a better Internet together.” We won’t achieve that dream on Feb. 10th, but we will take a small step toward spreading online kindness, media literacy and social activism. You’ll find details at Pre-registration is required.

Facebook to issue Amber Alerts

Facebook to include Amber alert details in News Feed

Amber Alert on Facebook mobile and on the web provides timely details on missing kids

Facebook and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) are teaming up to put Amber Alerts about missing children on Facebook News Feeds, but only for Facebook members in the targeted search area for an abducted child.

A game changer

John Walsh

John Walsh

John Walsh, the founder of NCMEC, former host of America’s Most Wanted and host of The Hunt on CNN called this partnership “a game changer” (scroll down to hear an exclusive podcast interview). He said the alerts will have pictures of the child, his or her height and weight, a description of the clothing he or she was last seen wearing, a description of any vehicle that may be involved and links to NCMEC missing child posters with more details. Users have the option to share the alert with friends.

Walsh said that the chance of finding a missing child are much higher if people are looking, and that the first 24 hours (really the first few hours, he said) are critical.

He also pointed out that people can see their Facebook News Feeds during times when they might not be watching TV,  listening to the radio or driving by a lighted freeway sign with an Amber Alert. Besides, the amount of detail available on Facebook will be much greater, further increasing the chance that someone might spot the child.

Reaching the right demographic

Another important aspect of this service is that it reaches younger audiences who might not even be tuned into traditional TV and radio. “This is a game changer for a younger generation,” he said. “I’m sure my 20-year-old son and every 14-, 15-, 13-year-old kid that’s on Facebook … When they get that regional Amber Alert, if they’ve seen that kid, I think they’re going to get online and do something about it.”

A personal tragedy led to Walsh’s life’s work

Walsh became involved in the search for missing children after his own child, Adam Walsh, was abducted and murdered in 1981. He helped found the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has remained active with NCMEC ever since. His wife Reve is on the board of NCMEC (as am I) and his son Callahan works at NCMEC.

In the interview, Walsh said that “I can only fantasize what would have happened in Adam’s case back in 1981 if we had the tools we have now.” He said that, in 1981, the FBI refused to get involved in Adam’s case because looking for children was not something the FBI did. Now they’re an important partner of the National Center.

Walsh personally lobbied Congress to make the Amber Alert system a federal program, and said that putting Amber Alerts on Facebook will only increase its reach. “With the huge population of social media on smartphones, this will make it easier to find missing children a lot faster.”

The recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62%  in 1990 to 97% today, according to NCMEC and, said Walsh, online media and TV play a big part in helping to find those children. The Justice Department reports that 723 children have been recovered as a result of Amber Alerts.

Click below to listen to the full 11-minute podcast with John Walsh and co-director Larry Magid.

 Disclosure: Larry Magid serves on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children board of directors and is also co-director of, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support form Facebook.

Timely for Safer Internet Day: Game-changing insight into Internet risk

by Anne Collier

One of the milestones of Internet safety was the distinction between risk and harm made by the pan-European researchers of EU Kids Online back in 2011. “Risk must be distinguished from harm,” they wrote in a report based on surveys of more than 25,000 9-to-16-year-olds in 25 countries. “As with riding a bike or crossing the road, everyday activities online carry a risk of harm, but this harm is far from inevitable – indeed, it is fairly rare.”

‘Online risk’ a different calculation

Now psychologist and lead EU Kids Online researcher Sonia Livingstone takes us a step further, adding another important distinction – the one between the way we determine offline risk and the way we have come to calculate online risk. In a just-published essay about risk, harm and vulnerability online, she shows where the often-used crossing-the-street analogy breaks down. It fails to factor in this other distinction, which we all (from parents to policymakers) need to understand before reacting to scary headlines about cyberbullies or predators. Online risk, where experts calculate “the probability of an encounter that might (or might not) result in harm,” as Livingstone puts it, is different from “real world” risk like crossing a street, where experts can calculate the probability of actual harm (e.g., getting hit by a car). So what is reported about online or phone-based risk “is not the actual risk … but the risk of the risk” (emphasis hers).

“On the internet, we do not know how many children are hurt or how severe are the consequences; there are no accident figures,” Livingstone writes. So what should be in the back of our minds whenever we see reports about “online risk” is that, if data’s being presenting, it’s showing “the probability of something [just something, not necessarily something harmful] happening, but whether it does [actually result in harm] and for how many it does, remains unknown.”

Take ‘sexting,’ for example

As soon as there was research on it at the end of the last decade, Livingstone writes, “‘sexting’ quickly became the latest risk, with policy makers, law enforcement and educators springing into action. But some pressing questions arise. How can we measure the prevalence of ‘sexting’ (how is it defined, can we ask young people ethically, will they report it truthfully?)? Does it matter, and is it harmful? If it is …who is vulnerable?… Is this harm new?… If we don’t ask these questions, public perceptions may conclude that all children are ‘at risk,’ thereby fuelling the media-amplified moral panics that result in anxious calls to restrict children’s internet access, increase surveillance or legislate against online freedoms.”

Other highlights from this important essay:

  • Our chronic anxiety. “Shaped by the media’s tendency to amplify risks, framing them as threatening the innocence of children and undermining the hope of an idealised, risk-free childhood, for many parents risk anxiety has become ‘a constant and pervasive feature of everyday consciousness’ (Jackson and Scott, 1999: 88).”
  • The harmful impact of fear: The internet is not, in any simple terms, making matters worse. But the public’s fear of the internet does seem to be restricting children’s online opportunities and, therefore, their life chances in the long term.”
  • The need for risk-taking: “A risk-averse society will, paradoxically, exacerbate rather than reduce the very vulnerabilities it seeks to protect by undermining the development of resilience. And for teenagers, risk-taking is also important both developmentally and culturally.”
  • “Soul-searching about childhood.” “The debates over internet-related harm … do not so much concern the internet as societal conceptions of childhood – particularly in relation to the place of sexuality and violence in childhood. The recognition that we as a society have only recently created – and are further re-designing – the internet, is stimulating some soul-searching about the childhood we have – and still could – create for our children.”
  • Harm not a given. “The identification of online risk does not imply that harm will follow, nor that all users will be equally affected” – very much like a key finding of the US’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force at Harvard’s Berkman Center, based on a review of this country’s youth-online-risk research through 2008 – that not all youth are equally at risk.
  • Maybe ask the kids? “For the most part, over a decade of surveys have asked children whether they saw something inappropriate but have generally not asked exactly what they saw, and few have asked (if it can be asked) whether this exposure harmed them…. But this is still to get a closer picture of what was happening on the road rather than what happened to the child.” EU Kids Online did actually ask kids if they felt they’d been harmed upon experiencing disturbing content or behavior – see this.
  • How much is the Net the problem, anyway? “Rather than building in an assumption that the internet is to blame (by asking what the internet is doing to childhood) or even grounding our inquiry in research on the internet, since this is relatively new, I suggest that we begin by learning from the long-established tradition of research and policy on the nature of risk, harm and vulnerability offline, including the psychological and sociological analysis of risk in children’s everyday lives.”
  • What’s important, here: “The importance of keeping the main purpose in mind – namely, to facilitate children’s online opportunities – is crucial.”

Awareness of these distinctions – the difference between risk and harm online and the fact that online risk is a very different calculation, if it can even be called that – will help us ask productive questions that lead to real solutions, such as how we can help our children develop the resilience that lowers the risk of harm online as well as offline (see this about internal Internet safety “tools”).

Related links: Other major milestones


Sidebar: ‘Hypothesized,’ not ‘demonstrated’ risk

Since the beginning of the public discussion about children’s Internet safety nearly 20 years ago, the kind of risk we’ve been talking about most of the time is “hypothesized risk.” That’s the term used by David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, when he offered up another important distinction in an online discussion about Livingstone’s essay:

“It is the distinction between ‘demonstrated’ risk and ‘hypothesized’ risk,” he wrote. “Smoking is a demonstrated risk; there is evidence that it causes a variety of harms. Going to meet someone who you only know from online – that is, at best, a hypothesized risk” – and he’s not even sure something should be called a hypothesized risk “just because a large group of people have anxieties about it,” he wrote.

So, Dr. Finkelhor continues, “what has to be established before something can be called a ‘demonstrated’ risk? Surely it must be something more than the fact that ‘something bad could possibly happen in conjunction with that behavior.’ If we treat going to meet an online contact as a risk because 1 in 300 kids had a bad experience, then going to meet your mother is certainly a risky behavior, too. I would offer that a demonstrated risk requires a pretty high threshold: 1) harm rates that are 2 or more times higher than those of behaviors ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (a concept used in toxicity testing), like walking down the street or driving in a car; 2) evidence that the behavior or context is causally related to the harm, not just associated with the harm” and 3) “evidence that the benefits do not outweigh the risks. For example, going to school probably increases your chances of being bullied, but it is known to have compensations, so we do not call it risky behavior.

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