SXSW Cancels Panel Discussion On Gaming Harassment Due To Threats

Last year, The Washington Post published an aritcle online titled ‘Rape and death threats are terrorizing female gamers. Why haven’t men in tech spoken out?’.  I saved that article because not only is the headline such a true statement in itself, but I was glad to see mainstream media covering this topic.

Now for those adults who consider video games ‘childsplay’ – well, I have a few words for you but this is not the time.  I am a 40+ year old woman who happened to grow up in the birth era of video games. Played them with/against my younger brother and did the same many years later when my twin boys were of age to get spanked at Mortle Kombat by their awesome mother.

As technology progressed and the evolution of online gaming came about, unfortunately came along rape and death threats against female gamers. Not to mention the ongoing gay bashing and constant racial slurs being thrown around – but we’ll save that for another time. Yes, this has been happening for quite some years now and nothing much has been done about it.  Not too sure what can be done about it at this point.  I mean, someone did invent a voice altering device so that females can sound like males while online….but really? Yeah, no voice altering mechanism for me, thank you.

So that brings us to today.  While on twitter, I saw a tweet come across my feed from @randlLeeharper stating that SXSW had canceled her panel due to death treats. Of course this peeked my interest so I researched by visiting the SXSW website to find the description on her panel titled ‘Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.

Official description:

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.

Of course, after that initial tweet, many started to respond. Some upset and others, well let’s just say that the “others” are probably those that are respsonsible for the rape and death threats. So because this tweet gained so much traction in so little time, SWSX officials released this statement:

On Monday, October 26, SXSW Interactive made the call to cancel two sessions for the 2016 event: “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.” 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.
However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.
SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas.
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.
— Hugh Forrest
SXSW Interactive Director

I don’t know about you but canceling a panel on death threats because of receiving death threats…..umm, well isn’t this kind of defeating the purpose? A dangerous cycle continued and yet another important topic swept under the rug, just like that…. yet again.

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