SXSW cancels Gamergate and anti-harassment panels after violent threats

Upcoming event SXSW has come in for criticism after cancelling not only a Gamergate-backed panel but also a panel designed to explore the topic of harassment.

The March gathering was due to host two sessions – ‘SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community’ and ‘Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games’.

The former, according to pro-Gamergate body The Open Gaming Society, was to explore "the importance of journalistic integrity in video game’s media" and "the current social-political climate of the gaming community". The latter, meanwhile, was due to discuss how to combat [online harassment], how to design against it, and how to create online communities that are moving away from harassment”.

Prior to the decision SXSW had come in for strong criticism for stating that it had a neutral view on the Gamergate hate-movement. To then cancel an anti-harassment panel due to harassment seems bizarre.

We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic,” the vent’s interactive director Hugh Forrest said. However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.

SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas. However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. 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.

Over the years, we are proud of the healthy community of digital innovators that has formed around SXSW. On occasions such as this one, this community necessitates strong management to survive. Maintaining civil and respectful dialogue within the big tent is more important than any particular session.”

The reaction from harassment victims has been strong, to say the least. Among the many to call out SXSW’s actions were Zoe Quinn.

Equivocating a hate group and its targets isn’t good community management. Shame on @sxsw,” she said on Twitter. ‘We are shutting down a panel on online harassment because of online harassment’. Cowards. Cowards far as the eye can see.

The fact that folks would call an online harassment solutions panel an ‘anti-Gamergate one’ is hilariously telling. That @sxsw is spinning this as strong community management is total horseshit. Its false equivalence and cowardice.”

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