After threats of violence, SXSW cancels panels on harassment and GamerGate

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Gamergate, apparently, is officially too toxic to touch.

After receiving threats of violence, the popular interactive media convention South by Southwest announced that it is canning all panels related to the so-called Gamergate controversy, the brutish civil war that erupted in the gaming industry last fall over identity, censorship and politics in gaming.


On Monday, panelists planning to speak at "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" and "SavePoint - A Discussion on the Gaming Community," received a notice that SXSW was canceling their panels.

"On the one hand, we are an event that prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas," director Hugh Forrest wrote in an email to the panelists. "On the other hand, preserving the sanctity of that big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful — so that people can agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place."

While the first panel planned to tackle the widespread harassment that has existed in the gaming community after the emergence of Gamergate, the second included speakers who had been involved in the pro-Gamergate movement, which was widely viewed as a harassment campaign against women.

Panelists on both sides were not pleased.

.@Scrumpmonkey Yep. It's a popular tactic when people are afraid of free speech. Shame @sxsw caved. But it's their party to cry at.

— PixelMetal (@PixelMetal) October 26, 2015

The Internet was also not pleased.


The cancellation of the events come shortly after a Motherboard article that was critical of the announcement of the pro-Gamergate panel.


“It raises the question, what is a debate?” one prospective speaker on another panel who said she had been harassed by Gamergate wrote to SWSW's organizers. “It’s good to include all voices, but what if one of the voices is extremely antagonistic? Then it becomes, this is not an open debate, you aren't creating an inclusive space.”

Now, it seems, the debate is open to no one. But allowing the threat of harassment to stymy the discussion of harassment is a dangerous cycle that continues to place power in the hands of abusers.