When the organizers of SXSW canceled two panels dealing with harassment and gaming for their March event, they took a ton of criticism. Now they’re reversing themselves by creating a full summit dedicated to the problem of online harassment.
Hugh Forrest, an organizer of the Austin event, said in a post on Monday that SXSW Interactive would cancel two sessions — “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” — because of threats of onsite violence. Now they’re adding a day-long summit to examine the topic on Saturday, March 12, with a number of prominent speakers. The speakers include Brianna Wu, head of development at Giant Spacekat, who talked about harassment at our own GamesBeat 2015 event.
Critics felt that SXSW gave up too easily on its canceled sessions, allowing online harassers to win the day and browbeat the organizers into caving into threats. That is just one facet to Gamergate, the gamer rage movement that exploded last year and led to a lot of harassment.
Here’s the full post from SXSW:
Earlier this week we made a mistake. 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 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, cancelling 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.
To that end, we’ve added a day-long summit to examine this topic. Scheduled on Saturday, March 12, the Online Harassment Summit will take place at SXSW 2016, and we plan to live-stream the content free for the public throughout the day.
The summit will include Randi Harper, Katherine Cross and Caroline Sinders from “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” as well as Perry Jones, Mercedes Carrera, and Lynn Walsh from “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.” We are working with both groups to develop the most productive focus for their appearances.
A number of additional speakers have been invited to join the summit to expand the conversation and give this issue the substantive discussion it deserves. Confirmed speakers include:
- Monika Bickert (Head of Product Policy, Facebook)
- Soraya Chemaly (Writer/Director, WMC Speech Project)
- Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts)
- Wendy Davis (Women’s Rights Advocate; former TX State Senator)
- Mark DeLoura (VP Technology, formerly with Sony, Nintendo, Google, and White House OSTP)
- Mary Anne Franks (Law Professor, University of Miami School of Law and Legislative & Tech Policy Director, Cyber
- Civil Rights Initiative)
- Jonathan Greenblatt (CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League)
- Umair Haque (umairhaque.com)
- Sarah Jeong (Contributing Editor, Vice Motherboard)
- Emma J. Llansó (Director, Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy & Technology)
- Emily May (Co-founder and Executive Director, Hollaback!)
- Kelly McBride (Vice President of Academic Programs, The Poynter Institute)
- Shireen Mitchell (Founder, Digital Sisters and Stop Online Violence Against Women)’
- Nika Nour (Director, Communications and Creative Strategies, Internet Association)
- Meredith L. Patterson (Security Researcher)
- Joseph Reagle (Northeastern University and Author, “Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web”)
- Jeffrey Rosen (President & CEO, National Constitution Center)
- Lee Rowland (Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project)
- Ari Ezra Waldman (Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School)
- Brianna Wu (Head of Development, Giant Spacekat)
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.
SXSW strives to bring a diverse range of voices together to facilitate meaningful dialogue in an atmosphere of civility and respect. Given the nature of online harassment, we will continue to work closely with the authorities and safety experts while planning for SXSW 2016.
Stay tuned to the SXSW website in the coming weeks for additional details.
*More presenters will be announced as their participation is confirmed. All speakers subject to change.