SXSW Cancels Panel on Harassment Citing Threats of Violence

Author: Cassandra Vinograd
Source: NBC Tech News

The popular South by Southwest festival said it was cancelling two panel discussions about harassment and the online gaming community due to threats of violence.

The festival — known as SXSW — said it had hoped that hosting the two panels “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” would lead to a “valuable exchange of ideas.”

However, it said SXSW had received “numerous threats of on-site violence” related to the programs in the week since the March 2016 SXSW Interactive event panels were announced. It did not detail the nature of the threats.

Official SXSW statement: “SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas,” it said in a blog post. “If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.”

The “Level Up” panel was due to feature experts on online harassment discussing how to combat and move away from harassment.

The Online Abuse Prevention Initiative’s Randi Harper was one of the panelists, and she posted what appeared to be the SXSW cancellation email on Twitter which said the festival had canceled sessions that “focused on the GamerGate controversy.”

The Opening Gaming Society said the “disheartening” move to cancel the panel came “as a shock.” It said that SXSW had been in touch to explain the decision — which came after receiving countless emails, phone calls and social-media messages about the panels.

“SXSW feels that both the organization and its staff have been under siege from all sides and from all parties since they announced the panels,” it said in a statement urging gamers not to attack the festival over its decision. “They want to encourage open discussions, but they don’t want to fuel a vicious online war between two sides who are extremely opposed to one another.”

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