SXSW Admits ‘Mistake’ in Canceling Game Panels, Sets All-Day Online Harassment Conference

SXSW reversed itself after dropping two panels about harassment of women in the video-gaming community, citing threats of “on-site violence” — with the festival now saying it will launch a day-long Online Harassment Summit.

“Earlier this week we made a mistake,” SXSW director Hugh Forrest wrote in a post on the organization’s site. “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.”

SXSW 2016 will stage an Online Harassment Summit on Saturday, March 12, to address so-called “Gamergate” issues. The event will be live-streamed free throughout the day.

At least two outlets — BuzzFeed and Vox Media — had said they would boycott the event because of the panel cancellations.

According to Forrest, the Online Harassment Summit was supposed to include both of the panels that were previously pulled. But Randi Harper, founder of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative and a participant in the “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” panel, later tweeted that the panel was not confirmed for SXSW. The other panel, seen as a session supportive of hostile Gamergaters with Perry Jones, Mercedes Carrera and Lynn Walsh, is “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.”

SXSW has invited more than 20 additional speakers to join the summit, with confirmed attendees to include: Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy; U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.); former Texas state senator Wendy Davis; Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League; and Brianna Wu, head of development for game studio Giant Spacekat.

SXSW 2016, held in Austin, Texas, is slated to run March 11-20.

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