SXSW Planning All-Day Online Harassment Event After Shutting Down Panels Due to Threats

SXSW Interactive is reportedly planning an all-day event dedicated to the topic of online harassment, after the festival shut down two panels due to threats of violence.

Sources who spoke with Re/code claim that the festival’s organizers are planning to respond to the criticisms of their handling of the threats of violence by staging a new event, whilst also reinstating the panel “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” though there has reportedly been no word on whether the Gamergate panel “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” has also been reinstated.

SXSW were criticized for shutting down the two panels after they were subjected to threats of violence, citing the safety of their attendees as the reasoning behind their actions. However, many noted how the festival’s organizers should have known that staging two divisive panels occupying polarizing sides of the political spectrum would provoke such a reaction, and that they should have responded by tightening the event’s security rather than cancelling the panels.

SXSW’s actions in the wake of the threats led to both Vox and BuzzFeed Media pulling out of their coverage of the festival, but Re/code has claimed that SXSW is now in talks with the two online publishers, and will provide a solution that the three parties will find satisfactory. While SXSW has not officially discussed its plans, it posted the following update to its official website:

We want the SXSW community to know that we hear and understand your frustrations and concerns about the recent cancellation of two SXSW Gaming panels.

The safety of our speakers, participants and staff is always our top priority.We are working with local law enforcement to assess the various threats received regarding these sessions.

Moving forward, we are also evaluating several programming solutions as we continue to plan for an event that will be safe, meaningful and enjoyable for all involved.

According to “Level Up” speaker Randi Lee Harper, the panel’s participants have not yet agreed to speak at the event.

SXSW has been vague about the online threats received by the company, though such reactions have been a staple of the debates surrounding Gamergate, with open discussions repeatedly being stifled from those who wish to see their respective political agendas remain unopposed by those with different opinions. SXSW announced the two panels by stating that it would be the first time that prominent figures on both sides of the debate would be allowed to have their voices heard during the same event, and hopefully that will still be the case.

Also See: SXSW Has Cancelled Anti- and Pro-Gamergate Panels Due to Threats of Violence

While there are those who criticize Gamergate’s representation at SXSW in the first place, SavePoint being cancelled at an event which has been outspoken regarding its neutrality pertaining to this debate is, in my opinion, not the way to go. I may not agree with Gamergate’s political leanings, and I find the series of events leading up to its conception downright abhorrent, but to deny SavePoint a platform that it was previously given because many do not agree with its opinions, is needlessly prohibiting this discussion from taking place in favor of creating an echo chamber.

Unless SavePoint was actively condoning the threats of violence that were leveled at the event, or were planning on staging a panel that would solicit the hate speech adopted by some of the more unruly denizens of the Internet who align themselves with the Gamergate movement, then there should be little reason for a panel that was intended to focus upon “the current social/political landscape in the gaming community” to be cancelled.