In Wake of Threats of Violence, SXSW Cancels Two Video Game Events [UPDATE]

SXSW Interactive director now says it was a mistake to cancel the two panels.

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[UPDATE] SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest issued a new statement on the matter, in which he apologizes for cancelling the panels. That was a mistake, he said.

"Earlier this week we made a mistake," he said. "By cancelling two sessions we sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it, and for that we are truly sorry.

"The resulting feedback from the individuals involved and the community-at-large resonated loud and clear. While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, cancelling sessions was not an appropriate response. We have been working with the authorities and security experts to determine the best way to proceed. It is clear that online harassment is a problem that requires more than two panel discussions to address."

As a result, Forrest said SXSW Interactive has added a new, day-long summit that will examine the topic of online harassment. This is called the Online Harassment Summit and will be held Saturday, March 12, 2016. This will be streamed live for free. It's planned to feature members of the two panels that were originally canceled.

"Online harassment is a serious matter and we stand firmly against hate speech and cyber-bullying," Forrest said. "It is a menace that has often resulted in real world violence; the spread of discrimination; increased mental health issues and self-inflicted physical harm.

"SXSW strives to bring a diverse range of voices together to facilitate meaningful dialogue in an atmosphere of civility and respect," he added. "Given the nature of online harassment, we will continue to work closely with the authorities and safety experts while planning for SXSW 2016."

More details are available on the SXSW website.

The original story is below.

SXSW Interactive organizers on Monday announced that two video game-themed presentations at the March 2016 event have been canceled in the wake of threats of violence.

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The two canceled panels are related to gaming communities and harassment specifically. They were called "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games."

SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest confirmed the threats in a statement, but did not share any further details about their nature or origin.

"We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic," he said. "However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming."

Forrest added that SXSW aims to provide a forum and marketplace for "diverse people and diverse ideas." However, the threats of violence impacted this, and the events needed to be canceled, he said.

"Preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful," he said. "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."

We will have more on this story as it becomes available.

SXSW Interactive runs March 11-15 in Austin, Texas. More information about the show is available here.

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