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Friday, January 22, 2021

SXSW festival will have online harassment event after all

NEW YORK (AP) — The SXSW Interactive festival said Friday that it was holding an “online harassment summit” after it was criticized for canceling two panels related to video games and online harassment.

SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest said in a blog post that canceling the panels “sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.” The festival had received threats of violence because of the programs.

Forrest said that canceling the sessions was “not an appropriate response” and that the festival was “working with the authorities and security experts.”

Both panels had been related to the online campaign dubbed “GamerGate” that began last fall, during which women were harassed for criticizing the lack of diversity in the video game industry and women’s portrayal in it. Neither of the panels mentions GamerGate specifically.

The tech festival, held every March in Austin, Texas, attracts 33,000-plus attendees and is part of the larger SXSW extravaganza for music and film. Online media companies BuzzFeed and Vox Media had threatened to pull their panelists and moderators if the panels weren’t reinstated. Neither company immediately responded to emails asking if they now planned to participate in the festival.

The festival said Friday that it would have a “day-long summit to examine” online harassment on Saturday, March 12. The event will be in-person and live-streamed, said Kelly Krause of SXSW’s press team.

Forrest’s post said the event would include speakers from both panels. One was called “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” while the other was “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 that shared some GamerGate concerns, such as ethics in gaming journalism. The “Level Up” panel included several women who have been subjected to harassment.

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