BuzzFeed has protested SXSW’s cancellation of two gaming panels – one essentially about Gamergate, the other about anti-harassment efforts in gaming – and announced it will withdraw from SXSW unless the items are reinstated.
Here is the text of BuzzFeed’s message BuzzFeed sent to Director of the SXSW Interactive Festival Hugh Forrest:
We were disturbed to learn yesterday that you canceled two panels, including one on harassment in gaming, in response to the sort of harassment the panel sought to highlight.
We hope you will reconsider that decision, and reinstate the panels.
Digital harassment — of activists of all political stripes, journalists, and women in those fields or participating in virtually any other form of digital speech — has emerged as an urgent challenge for the tech companies for whom your conference is an important forum. Those targets of harassment, who include our journalists, do important work in spite of these threats.
BuzzFeed has participated deeply in SXSW for years, and our staffers are scheduled to speak on or moderate a half-dozen panels at SXSW 2016. We will feel compelled to withdraw them if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment. We hope you can support the principle of free speech and engage a vital issue facing us and other constituents on the event.
Fortunately, the conference is five months away. We are confident that you can put in place appropriate security precautions between now and then, and our security staff would be happy to advise on those measures.
The response to BuzzFeed’s stance on SXSW’s decision has ranged from pleasant surprise to sheer irony —
Alternate title: 10 Reasons Buzzfeed Won't Be at SXSW. #8 Will Blow Your Mind! https://t.co/0ydUFoTVzv
— Liz Finnegan (@TheGingerarchy) October 27, 2015
The Mary Sue’s coverage of the panel cancellation and BuzzFeed’s response also wondered whether there was an unstated reason for the decision —
Although Forrest makes no reference to this in the post, one might speculate that another reason for SXSW’s decision could be the known issues with the security budget for this massive conference. In other words, it’s possible that SXSW simply could not accommodate the security demands presented by hosting these two panels. However, that was not the reason provided…