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SXSW Announces Day-Long Harassment Summit; Panelists to Drop Out of That Too

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The head of SXSW Interactive, Hugh Forrest, released a statement today announcing that he made a "mistake" in canceling two GamerGate-related panels earlier this week. Instead of reinstating the panels, Forrest says they've been rolled into a newly scheduled day-long summit on online harassment to be held on Sunday, March 12.

Update 2:30 p.m. It turns out that several of the panelists scheduled for this new online harassment summit were not informed about the full panelist lineup. 

Members of the original "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" panel expressed surprise upon finding out, via Forrest's Friday statement, that members of the "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" panel would also be involved in the summit. In light of their discovery of that information, members of Level Up are withdrawing from the summit, citing concerns for their own safety and questions about SXSW's understanding of online harassment.

Randi Lee Harper, one of the Level Up panelists, responded on twitter:

Original post: The canceled panels — one on online harassment, the other put on by people with ties to pro-GamerGate groups — were said to have received threats of violence. 

But, the cancelation drew widespread criticism from the online community, which called out SXSW officials for effectively supporting online harassment by bowing down to the online threats it received. 

From Forrest's announcement:

It is clear that online harassment is a problem that requires more than two panel discussions to address. To that end, we’ve added a day-long summit to examine this topic. Scheduled on Saturday, March 12, the Online Harassment Summit will take place at SXSW 2016, and we plan to live-stream the content throughout the day. The summit will include Randi Harper, Katherine Cross and Caroline Sinders from “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” as well as Perry Jones, Mercedes Carrera, and Lynn Walsh from “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.” We are working with both groups to develop the most productive focus for their appearances.

The conference has also added nearly 20 new panelists to the summit, including game developer/GamerGate harassment target Brianna Wu, Monica Bickert of Facebook, and former state Sen. Wendy Davis.

Forrest says SXSW has been working with authorities to ensure the safety of panelists and participants. 

An Austin Police spokesperson says that law enforcement is "aware of the threats and has been in touch with the appropriate folks from SXSW."

More details are to come, says Forrest. Read his full statement here. A current list of the additional panelists is below; Forrest says there will be more to come.

·       Monika Bickert (Head of Product Policy, Facebook)

·       Soraya Chemaly (Writer/Director, WMC Speech Project)

·       Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts)

·       Wendy Davis (Women's Rights Advocate; former TX State Senator)

·       Mark DeLoura (VP Technology, formerly with Sony, Nintendo, Google, and White House OSTP)

·       Mary Anne Franks (Law Professor, University of Miami School of Law and Legislative & Tech Policy Director, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative)

·       Jonathan Greenblatt (CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League)

·       Umair Haque (

·       Sarah Jeong (Contributing Editor, Vice Motherboard)

·       Emma J. Llansó (Director, Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy & Technology)

·       Emily May (Co-founder and Executive Director, Hollaback!)

·       Kelly McBride (Vice President of Academic Programs, The Poynter Institute)

·       Shireen Mitchell (Founder, Digital Sisters and Stop Online Violence Against Women)

·       Nika Nour (Director, Communications and Creative Strategies, Internet Association)

·       Meredith L. Patterson (Security Researcher)

·       Joseph Reagle (Northeastern University and Author, “Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web”)

·       Jeffrey Rosen (President & CEO, National Constitution Center)

·       Lee Rowland (Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project)

·       Ari Ezra Waldman (Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School)

·       Brianna Wu (Head of Development, Giant Spacekat)

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