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US festival SXSW reverses plan to cancel harassment forum

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 31, 2015 | Last Updated: 5 years ago
Posted: Oct 31, 2015 | Last Updated: 5 years ago
US festival SXSW reverses plan to cancel harassment forum


WASHINGTON: The South by Southwest festival reversed itself for the second time in a week Friday and announced it would hold a “summit” on harassment in the online gaming industry.

The US festival earlier this week said it was canceling two panel discussions on harassment due to threats of violence, and in doing so prompted some media organizations to threaten a boycott.

SXSW festival director Hugh Forrest said Friday in a statement that it was “a mistake” to scrap the panels at the March 2016 event in Austin, Texas.

“By canceling two sessions we sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it, and for that we are truly sorry,” he said.

“While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, canceling sessions was not an appropriate response. We have been working with the authorities and security experts to determine the best way to proceed.”

The move comes a year after the eruption of the “Gamergate” affair, which involved a spate of violent threats and harassment directed at women in the gaming industry who had criticized the way women are depicted in video games.

In one instance, Gamergate rage turned against Anita Sarkeesian of the website, who became the target of threats so violent that a scheduled appearance to speak at Utah State University had to be canceled.

Instead of the two discussion panels, Forrest said the SXSW festival would hold “a daylong summit” on the topic March 12 which would be live-streamed online.

“It is clear that online harassment is a problem that requires more than two panel discussions to address,” he said.

“Online harassment is a serious matter and we stand firmly against hate speech and cyber-bullying… SXSW strives to bring a diverse range of voices together to facilitate meaningful dialogue in an atmosphere of civility and respect.”

BuzzFeed and Vox Media had said they would withdraw from the festival if SXSW stuck with its decision to cancel the discussions.

“We will feel compelled to withdraw… 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,” BuzzFeed said earlier this week. –AFP

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