Since SXSW Interactive announced its intention to hold a full day of programming on online harassment, several of the proposed speakers have held discussions regarding SXSW’s decision and the best way to move forward.
We believe that the summit is an opportunity to raise awareness of the problem of online harassment and discuss concrete solutions. We have begun detailed discussions with SXSW about the specifics of programming and individual panels, and hope to continue a collaborative dialogue to ensure a dynamic, inclusive and productive summit.
As we move forward, we believe the most vital components to making the SXSW Summit on Online Harassment successful are:
1. Discuss the original cancellation of a panel on online harassment by SXSW, that led to the creation of this summit, and how other industry events and organizations can learn from those missteps. Inclusion of diverse panels and addressing resulting harassment directly needs to become the standard, not a Band-Aid once the damage has already been done. Additionally, we feel that SXSW needs to set the tone by ensuring that summit panels are centrally located to ensure integration with the rest of the SXSW Interactive programming, and that all security concerns raised by panelists are effectively addressed.
2. Address specific policies large tech companies and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Reddit, etc.) organizations can implement to address everyday harassment and encourage them to work together to strengthen and unify their stances on no longer tolerating harassing behavior. In addition, we need to discuss cross-platform harassment, as it is all too common for women's voices to be lost due to the censorship caused from repetitive online harassment.
3. Ensure that the voices of people of color are being heard, especially women of color. It is an unfortunate fact that people of color experience online harassment differently, and yet they are continually excluded from the conversation. Further, women of color are routinely erased from the historical and current efforts to further the feminist movement, including efforts around online harassment and freedom of expression, that we have both the responsibility and opportunity to address.
4. Discuss how official responses from law enforcement and policy makers need to change. Existing laws that already prohibit the worst of this behavior must be utilized more widely, and law enforcement agencies must be trained to understand the real world consequences of online harassment, how traditional laws apply in a virtual environment, and how to investigate and prosecute criminal behavior that occurs online. In addition, we must explore the additional steps that policy makers can take to strengthen existing laws or propose new measures to combat online threats and harassment.
By taking these steps, SXSW can demonstrate their commitment to diversity in the industry and a deeper understanding of why freedom of expression and public engagement require that the community take the violence that marginalized groups experience - online and off - seriously.