SXSW Apologizes for Canceling Controversial Panels

Organizers have also announced day-long summit that will feature speakers from the new cancelled panelists. 

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South By Southwest organizers apologized today for canceling of two controversial panels planned for its Interactive conference this coming March.

One panel featured pro-Gamergate speakers and another focused on online harassment. As a means of atonement, SXSW will host a day-long summit on online harassment that will feature speakers from both cancelled panels as well as representatives from both the political and technological sectors. The conversation will take place on March 12 and will be live-streamed for free.

“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,” said Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive, in a statement. “The resulting feedback from the individuals involved and the community-at-large resonated loud and clear.”

The sessions were originally cancelled for safety reasons, despite the intention of both sets of panelists to continue with their planned sessions. This new summit will include speakers ranging from former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis to Head of Facebook Product Policy, Monika Bickert.

While some have commending SXSW for instating the summit, the decision has been criticized by some of the featured panelists themselves. Randi Harper, a programmer originally from the “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” Tweeted out her frustration this afternoon.

Yesterday, Gamergate advocate Milo Yiannopoulos told the Los Angeles Times that feminists were to blame for SXSW panel cancellations.

“Feminism has leveled up from banning its opponents to banning entire debates. They just don’t want the discussion to be had,” said Yiannopoulus to the LA Times. “No one seriously believes there’s any physical danger to anyone — and if there is, it’s only to the Gamergate side, not the feminists.”

Yiannaopoulus’s own followers routinely harass and threaten bodily harm to women who criticize Yiannaopoulus and speak out against misogyny online.

One of the huge issues in the conversations about trolling, says Karla Mantilla, author of Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral. to Inverse, is that many people treat gender trolling and general trolling as the same issue. Look to the comment threads after most articles on the subject, and there is a flood of commenters writing that they feel men are trolled as the same level of abuse.

“I think it is a huge problem when the terms are conflated together; it contributes to this idea that women are only whining,” says Mantilla to Inverse. “Gender trolling is a completely different animal. These people threaten women with rape and death threats, at times for weeks on end. It is a form of terrorism.”

While SXSW has posted that speakers from the “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” will be included, Harper has announced that, as of this afternoon, she and her fellow speakers have not confirmed that they will be participating.