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article imageSXSW reverses course, will hold full-day harassment summit

By Michael Thomas     Oct 30, 2015 in Internet
Austin - Though South by Southwest (SXSW) won't be starting until March 2016, it set off a firestorm earlier this week for cancelling two panels on online harassment. It's now reversed course and created a day-long summit.
The trouble started Monday when SXSW officially cancelled two panels that were to be a part of its Interactive component. "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" was to be the first panel, followed by "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community," a panel considered affiliated with the GamerGate community.
"Level Up" was aimed at dealing with harassment in the gaming community and how to improve companies' responses to threats. It was to feature Caroline Sinders from IBM Watson, Katherine Cross of City University of New York Graduate Center, and Randi Harper from the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative. All three women have been targets of harassment both on the Internet and offline.
Citing a rising number of threats — seemingly from the GamerGate community — SXSW decided to cancel both panels. Harper, the organizer of the event, even posted the cancellation email on Twitter. Sinders, meanwhile, told Slate about the entire process. SXSW panel ideas must be submitted and then voted on online. All three organizers tweeted out the link to vote for their panel, and before long a Reddit thread had been created to set up a campaign to downvote the panel.
The outcry was swift and furious, and sponsors Buzzfeed and Vox Media threatened to pull their support from the festival.
On Friday, SXSW decided to make things right by holding an entire day-long discussion of online harassment. Director Hugh Forrest wrote in the announcement:
By cancelling two sessions we sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it, and for that we are truly sorry.
The event will now feature an expanded roster of speakers including those from the two panels. It will also include Brianna Wu — no stranger to prolonged harassment campaigns — as well as former Texas senator Wendy Davis, Monika Bickert of Facebook and many more.
The summit, to be held March 12, 2016, will be livestreamed and free to watch for those not attending SXSW.
More about Sxsw, online harassment, sxsw interactive
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