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SXSW apologizes for canceling two gaming panels after threats

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South by Southwest festival organizers apologized on Friday for canceling two video game-related panels in response to threats of violence. Following an uproar over the decision, which included companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media saying they would pull out of the event, SXSW has also added a day-long summit devoted to online harassment.

The two canceled panels were Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games and SavePoint: A Discussion of 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,” SXSW interactive director Hugh Forrest said in a statement on the website earlier this week. 

“SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas,” he said. “However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful.”

Just days later, however, Forrest admitted his mistake in another post on the official SXSW website: “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,” he said. 

As a result, the festival is dedicating a full day to discussing online harassment. The summit, which will feature speakers from the previously canceled panels, will take place March 12 and will be available for even those not present to watch via livestream.

“SXSW strives to bring a diverse range of voices together to facilitate meaningful dialogue in an atmosphere of civility and respect,” Forrest said. “Given the nature of online harassment, we will continue to work closely with the authorities and safety experts while planning for SXSW 2016.”

See Forrest’s full announcement here.