Two games-focused panels at SXSW next year have been reinstated by SXSW organizers after being canceled earlier in the week over receiving “numerous threats of on-site violence.”
SWSW organizers have added a day-long Online Harassment Summit to the schedule which will focus on how to deal with threats.
“Earlier this week we made a mistake. 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 event director Hugh Forrest. “The resulting feedback from the individuals involved and the community-at-large resonated loud and clear.
“While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, canceling sessions was not an appropriate response. We have been working with the authorities and security experts to determine the best way to proceed.
“It is clear that online harassment is a problem that requires more than two panel discussions to address. Online harassment is a serious matter and we stand firmly against hate speech and cyber-bullying. It is a menace that has often resulted in real world violence; the spread of discrimination; increased mental health issues and self-inflicted physical harm.”
The SXSW Online Harassment Summit will include those from the formerly cancelled, then reinstated, panels, save for Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Gaming, according to what panelist Randi Harper told Eurogamer. The panel was reinstated, but its participants will not take part in SXSW’s day-long summit.
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Two games panel at SXSW focusing on the video game community have been cancelled due to threats of violence.
SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community and Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games were due to take place in March next year as part of the festival.
“We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic,”wrote SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest.
“However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.”
“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.”
The Open Gaming Society, organisers of SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community, pleaded with those angered by the cancellation to remain calm and not “attack SXSW” for the decision.
“Don’t let that anger and unrest plant itself in you – it will only ripen into hatred and lead you to say things you could someday regret. Let’s all be calm and civil about this. Don’t flood SXSW’s inbox with “Fuck you” emails.”
It said that it intends to still organise, fund and host the panel around the same time as SXSW next year.