BuzzFeed Threatens To Withdraw From SXSW Over Canceled Panels

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:

Dear Hugh,

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 —

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…

14 thoughts on “BuzzFeed Threatens To Withdraw From SXSW Over Canceled Panels

  1. Arthur Chu was part of a proposed, related panel;
    he says:

    SXSW’s actions throughout this whole ordeal have been unprofessional, self-serving, and mendacious. They have never really taken seriously the idea of actively working to curb harassment or keep people safe; their one consistent motivation throughout has been the opposite—exploiting people’s abuse for drama and clicks.

    . He gives a lot of helpful detail about the panel-picking process at SXSW.

  2. @Doctor Science: Amusing to hear someone other than Buzzfeed be accused of “exploiting people’s abuse for drama and clicks.” 🙂

    Although I tend to agree.

  3. The affected panel’s people:

    Check out their “doctrine” and “tenets” and see them in all of their ridiculous glory.

  4. ::looks at “doctrine” (what – “manifesto” was taken?::

    Why do I think these are the same jokers who came up with “objective game reviews”?

  5. I’m disappointed that BuzzFeed and Vox seem to be calling for the reinstatement of “the panels” — based on the Arthur Chu article linked above and the histories of both Gamergate and the people involved with that panel, it feels like “both sides do it” mealy-mouthed dishonest equivocation.

    Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark is calling for reinstating the panel on harassment, not both panels.

  6. @Lexica

    I’m somewhat conflicted. I think that GG in any sort of a not-entirely-GG controlled space will wind up looking like the delusionary twits that they are. But then again GG-now would love any publicity, and lack enough self-awareness that they would probably think that they either were succesful or go running for the waaaaambulance.

    BtW, I disagree that the troupe are part of the “both sides do it” bunch. They’re more the “Oh noes, the aGGros are making threats at us” based on no evidence at all while any thing from the GG side is immediately “4chan troll did it” or “false flag op”.

    The denial is great in them.

  7. SXSW seems to reconsider:

    “The safety of our speakers, participants and staff is always our top priority. We are working with local law enforcement to assess the various threats received regarding these sessions”

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