SXSW Cancels Online Harassment, GamerGate Panels Due To Unspecified Threats

SXSW Cancels Online Harassment, GamerGate Panels Due To Unspecified Threats

Two gaming-related panels for the upcoming South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas have been unexpectedly cancelled because of “numerous threats of on-site violence.”

In the week since both panels were confirmed for SXSW, they have been widely discussed in the context of GamerGate, as one was publicly supportive of it.

Word began to circulate on Twitter this afternoon that South By Southwest had cancelled two gaming panels, one “regarding the current social/political landscape in the gaming community,” the other on “online harassment in gaming and geek culture.” Though it didn’t respond to Kotaku‘s requests for comment, SXSW interactive director Hugh Forrest published a statement.

In it, Forrest said that SXSW hoped “hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic,” but the alleged threats — which they did not detail — prompted them to reconsider:

“However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. 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.

Over the years, we are proud of the healthy community of digital innovators that has formed around SXSW. On occasions such as this one, this community necessitates strong management to survive. Maintaining civil and respectful dialogue within the big tent is more important than any particular session.”

It’s tough to look up what these panels were about anymore, but I can help.

One of the sessions was called “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.” While it didn’t mention GamerGate by name, it focused on the amorphous group’s often-cited values, including ethics in games journalism. The official page is now offline, but you can view a cached version over here:

We are attempting to organise a panel that we’d like to hold at SXSW 2016’s Interactive (Gaming) conference. The panel will focus heavily on discussions regarding the current social/political landscape in the gaming community, the journalistic integrity of gaming’s journalists, and the ever-changing gaming community, video game development, and their future. We will encourage honest critique and open dialogue between panelists and audience members, and will attempt to create a space where we can all speak on the social-political issues.

It would have featured journalist Lynn Walsh of the Society of Professional Journalists, Mercedes Carrera (activist) and Perry Jones (founder) of The Open Gaming Society, and Pixel Metal head of development Nick Robalik.

The Open Gaming Society and Robalik have openly discussed their support of GamerGate in the past.

The other session, “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” was to focus on the harassment that exists in gaming culture. It also did not cite GamerGate. Again, the session’s page is now offline, but the cached version lives on here:

A panel from experts on online harassment in gaming and geek culture, how to combat it, how to design against it, and how to create online communities that are moving away from harassment. The panel will dive into data around abuse in larger gaming communities. One of our panelists will talk about about ways to actually develop the social aspects of games – including UI decisions and how they can influence accuracy and usage of reporting abuse. Another will dive into UX design choices to stymy harassment in social media spaces.

It would have featured IBM Waston interactive designer Caroline Sinders, sociologist and gaming critic Katherine Cross, and Online Abuse Prevention Initiative founder Randi Harper. Harper is also known for @ggautoblocker, a “tool to filter mob harassment.”

Panelists from both sessions have expressed disappointment over the news, and are apparently reaching out to SXSW to see if it’s possible to change things.

SXSW Cancels Online Harassment, GamerGate Panels Due To Unspecified Threats
SXSW Cancels Online Harassment, GamerGate Panels Due To Unspecified Threats

It’s unclear if SXSW would reconsider, but for now, the panels are off.


  • You shouldn’t give into the trolls, now you just set a precedent for getting panels removed.

  • It’s getting to the point where a white man can’t publicly complain about how persecuted and pressured he feels when it comes to video games.

    I’m not going to say Political Correctness has gone mad, but clearly it has.

  • While I understand the need for taking these threats seriously and ensuring people’s safety, there will never be any change if everyone keeps avoiding talking about it because someone makes a fist at them. It’s like how politicians talk about not giving in to terror while increasing security measures out of fear and paranoia.

  • I’m in no way a fan of online harassment, but do find the whole gamergate thing to be a massively imbecilic waste of time. That said, ffs why are people still dumb enough to be callin’ in bomb threats to events like this?

    • Generally you call in bomb threats when you either don’t like what someone has to say, or you’re afraid of what they have to say.

        • >Gamergate called in a bomb threat to their own meet up in DC
          >Gamergate sent in harassment to get a panel where the actual topic of games journalism would be discussed
          >Gamergate would shut down the biggest opportunity to discuss their purported purpose and gain any legitimacy, because…???

          Do you think that maybe one day you’ll manage some critical thinking and realise that maybe, JUST MAYBE, GG aren’t calling in bomb threats and sending harassment on themselves?
          I know that would deconstruct that mental labyrinth you have where the world is black and white and there are no greys in between… but hell, it might do you some good.

          • If you want critical thinking, you’re not going to get it in discussions regarding a *movement* that is allegedly about ethics in game journalism…

            …but is nothing but conservative-leaning muppets squawking about ‘SJWs’ and ‘oppression’.

            That’s black and white. GamerGate is utter BS. It’s simply conservatives getting upset by progressive notions and looking for a facade to cover their bigoted anger.

            It’s got nothing to do with ‘unethical’ reviews.

            It has everything to do with ‘you write stories with progressive themes and I DONT LIKE IT AND HERE IS A PILE OF MSPAINT CONSPIRACY THEORIES FROM 4CHAN’.

            If you want to apply GamerGate *logic* to this bomb threat –

            It is clear that the bomb threat is a false flag ruse by SJWs to create a fake narrative around GamerGate to distract from the fact that grainy security cam footage of a McDonalds in Washington DC shows a grey blur – which has arms, just like Zoe Quinn – sitting at a table with a darker grey blur – which has a hat, like Totilo once wore – and this clearly illustrates the collusion between the global feminist network and the leftist game journalism sector to destroy any mention of straight white males in video games and replace them with trans lesbian dwarfs – not to mention the blurry figure in the background that appears to be holding an iPad (circled in red) which is an Apple product, Apple of course supports the feminazi cause as its products are clearly inferior to Android hardware which is used by the majority of serious gamers also the iPad is internet connectable and Tumblr is both on the internet and the main hotbed of SJW plotting to destroy video games and replace them with ‘diversity training modules’.


            ‘Ethics in game journalism’

          • GamerGate isn’t just one group of people all with the same goals. Many GG followers actually are about ethics in journalism, but those who are the leaders and created it are the type of people who think a woman cannot be an ethical journalist, as all women are trying to destroy men, and that all women who work in the gaming industry want all games to be about cutsie fairies and hugging and that they want to kill off all other games. Yet we all know these things are far from reality.

  • Folding after vague and non-credible threat just hands power to a bunch of internet trolls.
    Call the bluffs and let the panels go ahead.

  • Reckon they should still hold the panels & just cast them live on Twitch from a secure room or something – don’t give in to the trolls

    • How do you secure a room from something fictional?
      How about you just have a zero tolerance policy for taking threats from gamers seriously.

        • Search result #1 quotes “Pokémon world championships: two arrested after firearms found in car “
          So that didn’t even make it to exception that proves the rule status.

        • That was covered here, states no threatening posts/claims other than the content of one photo, shown.

          Alternate title “Gun and pokemon enthusiast found to have pokemon and gun”

          Edit: The Daily Beast article for this ends with “yeah, they’re not being charged with anything” immediately followed by this story…
          “People living in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods are more likely to be killed than citizens of the world’s leading countries for murder”

      • All it takes is one idiot to turn fiction into fact & by then it’s too late. The rationale behind cancelling the panel is the whole “better safe than sorry” mentality. My suggestion was merely to carry on without allowing the public a chance to turn the fiction into fact.

  • The guys that make these threats are nothing but sad, scared little bitches who can’t process their own feelings of inadequacy and instead lash out like tantrum throwing toddlers.
    Got something important to say? Say it publicly and without anonymity. Or call in a bomb threat like a pathetic loser. That’ll show em.

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