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This article was published on October 30, 2015

SXSW reverses course, announces day-long online harassment summit after backlash

SXSW reverses course, announces day-long online harassment summit after backlash
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

After initially cancelling two Gamergate-related panels, today SXSW reversed course and announced a full day of panel discussions on the topic of online harassment.

“By canceling two sessions we sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it, and for that we are truly sorry,” said Hugh Forrest, director of the SXSW conference, in a blog post.

The outrage started on Monday after SXSW announced the cancellation of two panels –“SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games”– intended to advance the conversation about harassment in the gaming community.

Media outlets Buzzfeed and Vox weighed in on their displeasure over a decision that effectively silences a conversation about harassment by, well, harassment. Both threatened to boycott the event unless the panels were reinstated.

The scattered outrage became a focused voice that found the entire tech community forced to re-open the dialogue as it pertained to Gamergate and online harassment in general. It forced SXSW to pay attention or risk alienating the very people that their event relied on to attend, speak, and present.

The decision to institute a summit in place of the cancelled panels was a good one, and it features an impressive lineup of speakers.

Confirmed speakers at the newly instituted day-long panel include:

  • Monika Bickert (Head of Product Policy, Facebook)
  • Kelly McBride (Vice President of Academic Programs, The Poynter Institute)
  • Brianna Wu (Head of Development, Giant Spacekat)

It’s good that SXSW took a quick and decisive action before this entire situation slipped out of control. Cancelling these panels allows online bullies to dictate this and future conversations about harassment.

The summit is a great start, but it shouldn’t have been inspired by ‘threats.’

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