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SXSW schedules harassment summit

Update Date: Oct 31, 2015 01:16 PM EDT
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On October 30, 2015, South by Southwest's organizers scheduled a summit on gaming-related Internet harassment, after getting backlashed for canceling similar sessions at next year's event due to threats of violence at the festival.

"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," SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest wrote in a blog post.

The festival is held annually in Austin, Texas. It unites technorati, filmmakers and musicians from around the world. Its decision to cancel two panels on online harassment and objectification of women in gaming drew the ire of panelists, women's rights advocates and two media organizations. Vox Media and BuzzFeed both announced they would boycott the festival unless the panels were restored.

The SXSW Online Harassment Summit will be held on March 12, 2016 and can be livestreamed by those who are at home.

The all-day online-harassment summit will feature Wu, Facebook product policy head Monica Bickert and Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who criticized SXSW's decision to cancel the panels.

On October 26, 2015 the cancellation of two sessions was announced, following threats of violence: "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" and "SavePoint: Discussion on the Gaming Community."

"While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, canceling sessions was not an appropriate response," SXSW's Forrest said. "Online harassment is a serious matter and we stand firmly against hate speech and cyberbullying."

The first session was meant to feature experts in online harassment, while the other was a forum to discuss "the importance of journalistic integrity in video game's media," among other things.

"It will be critical for them to take time to address the mistakes they made in the lead-up to the event," Forrest said. "Too often, harassment is blamed solely on online trolls. But what also needs to be discussed is the entire tech industry's role in minimizing women's experiences both on and offline."

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