Banishing the #GamerGate Bullies & Supporting Women in Tech at SXSW

SXSW Interactive Banner is on display in Austin

Reading the news that SXSW has cancelled its two panels around online harassment and #GamerGate was upsetting, but not altogether surprising. For all the pro-feminism #GamerGate inspired, the online harassment hasn’t stopped. If anything, the bullies seem to be multiplying. At this point it almost seems like an Onion article, “Woman wants to talk about online harassment; Gets harassed online.”

The Current State of Online Bullies

I went to a party recently that was devised to increase women’s network of other interesting women (super neat) and I heard a story that still riles me. One of the women at the party posed with one of the more prominent #Gamergate women in an Instagram post at the recent Grace Hopper conference – and became targeted by online threats herself.

Let’s dissect this: a professional woman poses for a photo with a leader in her field and finds herself the object of obscenities.

Can this really be considered free speech? And, equally important, what type of tech community have we built for ourselves when bullying has become so rampant?

Who won #GamerGate

I forget that #GamerGate is now over a year old – that it first blew up in August 2014. As news stories tend to occur in fits and starts, I wondered what the analysis was of #GamerGate now that enough time had occurred to look at it holistically. According to thorough research, virtually no one-sided with the chauvinist #GamerGate gamers. In fact, their actions led to greater awareness of the less than ideal standards for women in gaming and tech. Score one for the ladies?

Not so fast. Even corporate support isn’t ending this issue.

Companies Take a Stand Against SXSW #GamerGate Threats

Buzzfeed and Vox took a stand today. They told SXSW that they plan to withdraw all their employees from SXSW’s panels unless SXSW reinstated the #GamerGate panels is likely a reflection of the social media uproar and disgust levied at the abusive gamers: Corporations took note. Ideally, more companies will jump in and further support their female employees by pulling out of SXSW panels as well.

And yet…it seems that the #GamerGate supporters still haven’t noticed that they’re on an island alone when it comes to public opinion.

Protecting ideas and the people who have them are so intertwined, it’s hard to imagine protecting one without the other. I’m struck by the cowardice of the #GamerGate movement that they need to resort to violent threats to let their message be heard. I very much hope we don’t let these bullies win.

Perry Jones, the head of Open Gaming Society, who was poised to speak on one of the #GamerGate panels said in response to SXSW’s decision to close down the panels, “Don’t let that anger and unrest plant itself in you – it will only ripen into hatred and lead you to say things you could someday regret.”

I can’t help but wonder if any of the #GamerGate supporters will ever have daughters. Seems like this hatred might very well become something they regret.