SXSW apologizes for axing online harassment talks, adds full day of programming

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is SXSW apology, Harassment Summit enough for jilted panelists?.

Austin’s SXSW Interactive technology festival said Friday that it will hold an “online harassment summit” after it was criticized for bowing to threats and canceling two panels related to video games and online harassment.South by Southwest Interactive announced Friday that the two gaming-related panels it canceled earlier this week will be reinstated as part of a larger Online Harassment Summit at its 2016 festival. Canceling the panels “sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it,” SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest said in a blog post.

Organizers of the annual event, which attracts tens of thousands of tech, music, and film industry professionals to Austin every year, previously said that threats of violence related to the panels led to canceling talks “focused on the GamerGate controversy.” But SXSW received significant blowback after the cuts were publicized, with many critics complaining the festival caved to intimidation by removing the panels, one of which focused on ideas for how video game developers can use design to combat harassment in gaming. Sinders and her copresenters have given suggestions to SXSW about inviting a balanced lineup of speakers and creating a comfortable environment for the harassment summit.

But scrapping the sessions was “not an appropriate response” and the festival is now “working with the authorities and security experts,” he said. The organization is now being questioned for including some speakers who are believed to be sympathetic to an online cause known as “gamergate,” a term that was popularized in the summer of 2014 and has since been associated with vicious social media attacks directed at women.

Sinders said she was unsure about the SavePoint panel’s expertise in the area. “I’m curious around their expertise or research within harassment,” she said via e-mail. “I can only speak for myself, but I am a practitioner around [user experience] design and user research. Online media companies BuzzFeed and Vox Media had threatened to pull their panelists and moderators from the festival if the panels weren’t reinstated. I understand they may have received harassment, but I wonder what their panel would cover.” According to panel organizer Perry Jones, SavePoint will now focus on harassment, and will deal with “how media covers harassment and how that can even lead to more harassment of victims and of affiliate parties.” “We don’t mind the changes,” said Mr. Those who subscribe to the gamergate cause argue the movement is about unfair representation of gamers in the media. “Gamers for so long have been waiting for their chance to speak up about the poor representation they’ve received in the media, and SavePoint is that opportunity,” reads an update on the website for the Open Gaming Society, which is organizing the SavePoint talk.

One was called “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” the other “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.” The “SavePoint” talk had been set to discuss the “current social/political landscape in the gaming community” and included speakers who shared some GamerGate concerns, such as ethics in gaming journalism. I welcome their re-invitation, but their panel was on journalism and ethics, so it would seem way better suited to the gaming or general interactive track. Randi Harper, who had been scheduled to be on the “Level Up” panel, wrote in an emailed statement that the original panelists were “not confirmed to be speaking” at the summit after the two panels were combined into one event.

We all still have security concerns, and that seems to be pressing to us, as well.” Describing gamergate to those outside the gaming community is a difficult task, but framing gamergate as a debate is too kind. Harper is the founder of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative, a non-profit, according to its website. “We were very surprised to find SXSW making GamerGate a part of the discussion about online harassment. Female game designers and critics who spoke out about the medium’s future experienced harassment, including threats of rape and death, and saw details about their personal lives published online (a practice referred to as “doxxing”).

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