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SXSW apologizes for canceling gaming panels, announces summit on online harassment

SXSW 2016 will host an Online Harassment Summit, featuring members of the two gaming-related panels that were recently removed from next year's event schedule, according to a new statement from its organizers.

As shared on the festival's website, SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest expresses a mea culpa for the cancellation, which garnered criticism from such organizations as BuzzFeed and Vox Media, Polygon's parent company.

"We made a mistake," Forrest said in the statement. "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."

Forrest goes on to acknowledge the community response. In an effort to make up for the loss of the panels, which remain canceled, the organization has invited those previously-scheduled panelists as well as a number of other speakers to discuss online harassment.

Cyber abuse was the subject of one of the two panel discussions no longer set to occur during the festival. "Level Up," hosted by experts on combating online abuse, was shut down by the event's organizers due to security concerns. "SavePoint," sponsored by the GamerGate-parroting Open Gaming Society and meant to address "ethics in video games' media [sic]," was the other panel taken off the schedule.

Following the removal of these discussions, which SXSW Interactive's director Hugh Forrest suggested in a statement was driven by a desire to keep dialogue open, BuzzFeed and Vox Media countered with statements of their own, announcing their intention to cut ties with next year's event if the panels were not reinstated.

We've reached out to representatives from both organizations for comments regarding their participation in next year's SXSW event in light of the organizers' statements.