South by Southwest, which is a massively popular interactive, film and music festival held in Austin, Texas that is also known simply as SXSW, canceled a pair of panel discussions after receiving threats of on-site violence for the event to be held on March 17 to19.
Ironically, the two canceled panel discussions were to have a focus on the harassment and diversity issues on the gaming community.
"In the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming," said SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest in a statement posted on the festival's official website.
Forrest added that while the SXSW prides itself in serving as the big tent and a marketplace for diverse people with diverse ideas, it is looking to preserve the big tent's sanctity through keeping the dialogue respectful and civil. Therefore, in the face of violent threats against the panel sessions, strong management in the form of the cancelation of the panel is needed to maintain a respectful and civil state at the SXSW.
The two panels that were canceled were named "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" and "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community." It was not clear if the SXSW would be replacing the panels with other means to discuss the struggles on diversity in the gaming industry.
Level Up was supposed to feature online harassment experts from both gaming and geek culture for a discussion on how to fight and design against it, and how to establish online communities that move away from such harassment.
Randi Harper, one of the Level Up panel speakers and Online Abuse Prevention Initiative founder, posted the cancelation notice sent by SXSW. The notice directly referenced the GamerGate controversy of last year as one of the reasons in canceling the panel, but Harper insisted that the panel was not related to the issue.
GamerGate was as Internet-driven movement that started last year which highlighted the diversity struggles of the gaming industry. The term has become associated with vicious comments posted on social media that are directed at female writers and game developers.
SavePoint, on the other hand, was organized by a group named the Open Gaming Society. One of the topics that were supposed to be discussed in the panel was the "journalistic integrity of gaming's journalists," which has been the rallying cry of people that have taken a pro-GamerGate stance.