South by Southwest — the music and interactive media conference that takes place in Austin, Texas, each year — has a controversy on its hands.
On Monday, the organization announced it had canceled two sessions about sexism in video gaming culture because of threats of violence. Internet news companies BuzzFeed and Vox Media have said they will pull out unless SXSW reverses its decision.
There had been two panel discussions planned: one about addressing the harassment many women say they face in gaming culture; the other about Gamergate, a movement at the center of debates about misogyny in gaming and ethics in video game journalism.
"We've received threats, and we have been for a very, very long time," says Randi Harper, a former computer engineer and the founder of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative. "There are a lot of people who are angry that women are invading their online spaces and, you know, demanding that the threats stop."
Harper says gamers want to deflect public discussion of those topics — or make them impossible.