Media Companies, BuzzFeed, Vox, Threaten to Withdraw From SXSW Over Cancelled …

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Media Companies, BuzzFeed, Vox, Threaten to Withdraw From SXSW Over Cancelled Panels.

SXSW is working with local investigators to determine the credibility of threats leveled against two gaming-focused panels whose cancellation has outraged attendees, panelists and media companies who on Tuesday said they were pulling out of the Austin, Texas-based tech conference. “The safety of our speakers, participants and staff is always our top priority. Popular digital media companies BuzzFeed and Vox Media have threatened to withdraw from the South by Southwest festival after two panel discussions about harassment and the online gaming community were cancelled due to threats of violence.

The festival — known as SXSW — said it had hoped that hosting the two panels “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” would lead to a “valuable exchange of ideas.” But the popular festival, to be held in Austin, Texas in March, said in a blog post Monday it had received “numerous threats of on-site violence” related to the programs in the week since the March 2016 SXSW Interactive event panels were announced. The festival did not detail the nature of the threats. “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,” BuzzFeed said in an online post and in a letter to SXSW Interactive Festival Director Hugh Forrest. In the statement released by SXSW the festival states, “If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.” The festival got one thing right today: They are a marketplace of ideas from which lots of valuable conversation has emerged. Austin American-Statesman technology reporter Omar Gallaga called the move unprecedented in his memory. “i’ve never heard of threats made over panels like this and panels canceled for that reason,” Gallaga told Mashable. “They’ve certainly dealt with controversy and heightened security. The conversation around women’s rights online doesn’t need to center around the GamerGate controversy that propelled this topic into the public eye over a year ago.

GamerGate is a movement led by mostly male gamers who say they are fighting for more ethical gaming journalism — but the group has become better known for its cyberattacks on female gamers. Video games are no longer something “nerdy” boys play to pass the time; they’re becoming a widespread activity and communal space enjoyed by all genders and ages – it’s even considered a sport these days. The SavePoint panel also was not explicitly about GamerGate — but featured panelists such as Nick Robalik and porn actress Mercedes Carrera, who’ve expressed support for the movement. If SXSW can let threats scare them away from providing a platform for change, they have to also think about the women who will continue to be treated unequally in a realm where an active portion of the male community still believes they don’t belong.

SXSW organizers got a small taste of what women must experience and, by canceling the panels, have taken away what could have been a productive public discussion about harassment that isn’t always seen but continues to permeate the Internet. We put metal detectors in the building and we had security presence there,” Heider said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t take threats seriously, but it also doesn’t mean cancel the event because of a threat.” Now, several publications that typically fuel the tech/business-centric festivities at SXSW are refusing to partake unless the festival starts taking harassment seriously. I would be surprised if you don’t see a university group or the like in Austin picking up where SXSW has dropped the ball and hosting a panel about online harassment in the near future.

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