SXSW responds to backlash over controversial changes to 2016 festival
SXSW's cancellation of two controversial panels earlier this week sparked public outcry. In response, the festival is reinstating the sessions and launching a summit dedicated to online harassment.
SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest apologized for the cancellations and discussed the festival's reasoning in a statement on Friday. "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 Forrest.
"While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, canceling 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," Forrest continued.
The panels in question — "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" — were canceled due to "numerous" threats of violence. Both were meant to be open conversations about tensions within the video game community.
The Online Harassment Summit will include the panelists from the aforementioned sessions as well as a bevy of other speakers ranging from politicians to journalists to gaming authorities. The mini-conference is scheduled for March 12 during SXSW 2016, and the content will be live-streamed for those who can't attend.
SXSW hopes to provide an "atmosphere of civility and respect" to discuss these issues during the new summit.