by Dave Pell
Let’s keep this short because there so little merit to the opposing view that the subject is not worth more than a few paragraphs. Last year, I attended the XOXO Conference for the first time. The weekend had another first as well. Anita Sarkeesian was making her first public appearance since becoming Gamer Gate’s most notable victim.
Her presentation was remarkable in two ways. First, the disturbing stories she told about the online abuse she faced (which led, ultimately, to the FBI getting involved). And second, because one of the especially misguided trolls who had harrassed Anita actually showed up in person. The event’s organizers, Andys Baio and McMillan, became aware of the situation, went outside, and dealt with the guy until police arrived.
Abuser intends to further victimize someone, organizers stand firm, community says no: That’s what you’d call a good moment
I was surprised an online abuser showed up in person. And I don’t discount the threat it could happen again with more a more dire outcome. But the community must stand up in these situations. We can’t let the schedule and content of public gatherings be dictated by the few and the wrong. When, in the face of digital threats organizers of the SXSW Conference canceled two panels on the subject of online harassment, it was a unfortunate step in the wrong direction.
Buzzfeed almost immediately said they wouldn’t attend a conference where such a decision was maintained (A new-media company making a bold, immediate and righteous stand: Another good moment). But it shouldn’t come to that. The panels should go on. They should be the most-attended of the conference. And if faced with threats verbal, digital or physical, the community should stand.