SXSW management is reconsidering its decision to cancel two gaming panels — one essentially about Gamergate, the other about anti-harassment efforts in gaming — due to the strongly negative reaction from key SXSW participants BuzzFeed and Vox Media, and the internet generally.
Vox Media outlet Re/Code reports, “SXSW festival organizers are considering an all-day event that focuses primarily on combating online harassment…. An announcement could come before the end of the week.”
Meantime, the “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” panel has been reinstated, although panelist Randi Harper has said the original participants have not yet agreed to speak at SXSW. There is, as yet, no report of the pro-GamerGate item coming back, although BuzzFeed’s statement yesterday had called for both panels to be restored.
SXSW responded to the furor with a general statement, “Safety is a Top Priority and So is Your Voice”.
We want the SXSW community to know that we hear and understand your frustrations and concerns about the recent cancellation of two SXSW Gaming panels.
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.
Moving forward, we are also evaluating several programming solutions as we continue to plan for an event that will be safe, meaningful and enjoyable for all involved.
We will provide more information soon.
The Guardian reports that “Neither organization [BuzzFeed and Vox] has yet confirmed whether they will attend if the all-day event goes ahead, or if only one of the two panels is reinstated.”
The Mary Sue observes that whatever the corporations arrange for this programming it’s the individual participants who bear the risks.
If these panels get reinstated because it’s a brand-conscious financial decision for SXSW, that might be considered a victory for some — but it’s a somewhat depressing one.
The multiple media companies potentially withdrawing their panels, as well as celebrity panelists speaking out against SXSW, has placed a lot of pressure on the conference to find a way to host this programming. But let’s not forget that the brunt of the pressure actually ends up on the shoulders of the marginalized people slated to appear on these panels, many of whom have faced even more threats this week due to the hyper-visibility of this ongoing controversy. What’s more, placing SXSW staffers and attendees in harm’s way seems irresponsible, especially if the conference truly does lack the resources to provide adequate security.
This has become a very thorny moral dilemma, with no simple answer.