South by Southwest Interactive is doing an about-face on its decision to cancel two anti-harassment panels due to threats of "on-site violence" for the 2016 conference. Now, less than a week after announcing the cancelation—and days after facing mounting criticism from media partners like Vox and Buzzfeed pulling out —SXSW is instead creating an entire daylong summit to address the issues in a much bigger way.
South by on Friday announced it will hold a full slate of talks on March 12, which it plans to livestream throughout the day.
"Earlier this week we made a mistake," the announcement said. "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.
"The resulting feedback from the individuals involved and the community-at-large resonated loud and clear. While we made the decision in the interest of safety for all of our attendees, cancelling sessions was not an appropriate response. We have been working with the authorities and security experts to determine the best way to proceed."
SXSW is now taking the issue very seriously. For instance, here is a list of 19 confirmed anti-harassment speakers that it released on Friday:
- 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 (umairhaque.com)
- Sarah Jeong (Contributing Editor, Vice Motherboard)
- 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)
SXSW is an annual conference drawing roughly 40,000 tech, agency and brand players every year for its late-winter festival.