SXSW causes a stir over canceling harassment panels.

SXSW causes a stir over canceling harassment panels.
photo via BuzzFeed (from YouTube)

On Monday, October 26, SXSW Interactive made the call to cancel two sessions for the 2016 event: “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.” 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. – Hugh Forest

THE ANNOUNCEMENT from SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forest shocked me when I heard the news. Now, I’m not a gamer, but I’ve been an online content provider for almost two decades, so I know a thing or two about harassment on the web.

The women working in gaming face the worst harassment I’ve heard of and seen yet. It’s active on Twitter.

Gamergate is not the whole story, but if you don’t know what it is read this. It’s a place to start.

As for the decision by SXSW to cancel two important sessions, this post says it all.

BuzzFeed and Vox have now threatened not to attend SXSW 2016 if the decision isn’t reversed.

From BuzzFeed

Dear Hugh,

We were disturbed to learn yesterday that you canceled two panels, including one on harassment in gaming, in response to the sort of harassment the panel sought to highlight.

We hope you will reconsider that decision, and reinstate the panels.

Digital harassment — of activists of all political stripes, journalists, and women in those fields or participating in virtually any other form of digital speech — has emerged as an urgent challenge for the tech companies for whom your conference is an important forum. Those targets of harassment, who include our journalists, do important work in spite of these threats.

BuzzFeed has participated deeply in SXSW for years, and our staffers are scheduled to speak on or moderate a half-dozen panels at SXSW 2016. We will feel compelled to withdraw them if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment. We hope you can support the principle of free speech and engage a vital issue facing us and other constituents on the event.

Fortunately, the conference is five months away. We are confident that you can put in place appropriate security precautions between now and then, and our security staff would be happy to advise on those measures.

We look forward to your reply.

Ze Frank
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures

Dao Nguyen

Ben Smith