SXSW, Gamergate and Online Harassment: What You Need to Know

SXSW programmers cancelled two panels this week due to threats.

By Alain StephensOctober 29, 2015 4:28 pm

Every year thousands of techies and their admirers from the world over flock to Austin for South By Southwest Interactive.

Usually what makes headlines are big reveals, like when Twitter took off a few years back. But this year, folks are talking about something usually nowhere near as buzzworthy: the panels.

Two panels were cancelled, one of which was set to discuss online harassment. Buzzfeed and Vox have said they will boycott the event altogether if the panels are not reinstated.

So why would SXSW pull the plug on those discussions in the first place? Helping us sort through it all is Omar Gallaga, digital savant at the Austin-American Statesman.

Gallaga says there were threats of “on-site violence” against panelists on two topics: online harassment and the gaming community. Some of the panelists were associated with Gamergate, which started with a controversy around game reviews and how women are portrayed in games.

“People have become outraged that SXSW would cancel any panel about online harassment because of harassment,” he says.

SXSW’s reputation has improved its push toward diversity in programming and speaker line-up, he says.

“But this calls into question, do they really understand what diversity really means,” Gallaga says. “Why would they pull out of this discussion entirely?”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.