Festival has offered to reinstate one of the panels it cancelled after threats of violence and is reportedly considering an all-day event on the topic
Austin’s South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival is “considering an all-day event that focuses primarily on combatting online harassment”, in an attempt to quell the anger over the festival’s withdrawal of two gaming-related panels due to “threats of violence”.
The removal of the panels has prompted threats to pull out of the festival entirely from media organisations BuzzFeed and Vox, as well as widespread condemnation, particularly since one of the panels was explicitly about overcoming harassment in games.
According to Re/Code , which is owned by Vox Media, an announcement of the new event could come before the end of the week. Additionally, SXSW has offered to reinstate the panel about harassment, although the panelists have not confirmed whether or not they will accept the offer.
The other of the two withdrawn panels was closely associated with the anti-feminist Gamergate movement, although the movement itself was not mentioned in the panel description. It is not clear whether that panel will be reinstated.
When BuzzFeed threatened to withdraw from the conference, it asked SXSW to reinstate both panels; Vox Media, by contrast, asked the festival to ask “host a safe and open discussion of these issues”. Neither organisation has yet confirmed whether they will attend if the all-day event goes ahead, or if only one of the two panels is reinstated.
SXSW’s decision to withdraw the panels, which were set to be part of the SXSW Interactive section of the festival, was not only criticised for the irony of pulling a panel on overcoming harassment due to harassment. The festival also faced criticism for a response to the threats which, many argued, drew a false equivalence between the Gamergate movement and those who have been targeted by it.
In a statement, SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest said the two panels had been withdrawn because the threats compromised the event’s aim. “If people cannot 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”.
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