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BuzzFeed Is Returning to SXSW After Panel Cancellation Controversy

"We feel like the organizers of SXSW have moved in the right direction on this."

AFP via Getty

BuzzFeed said last week that it would be withdrawing from next year’s South by Southwest festival because the conference organizers decided to cancel two panels after receiving threats of on-site violence. BuzzFeed now says it is back in, a week after SXSW announced a single-day event to be focused on fighting online abuse and harassment, confirming an earlier Re/code report.

BuzzFeed’s initial withdrawal prompted Vox Media to also back out; Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff had been scheduled to deliver a keynote at the conference. BuzzFeed said it would only come back if the canceled panels were reinstated, and Vox* said it would return provided that SXSW take “appropriate steps to correct” the situation.

BuzzFeed confirmed to Re/code its return to next March’s festival. Vox Media declined to comment.

“We feel like the organizers of SXSW have moved in the right direction on this, and we will participate in the panels as planned,” a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said. The company’s return mostly means that it’s going to let its staffers back on panels during the festival, like this one on photography in digital media.

The panel cancellations that set off the controversy were related to two sessions focused on the video game industry. One panel was linked to the online Gamergate mob, which has targeted and harassed various women in gaming. The other panel was to discuss design solutions to combat online abuse and included former victims of Gamergate harassment.

When SXSW announced the “Online Harassment Summit” last Friday, there was initially some controversy because the organizers had included both the canceled Gamergate and anti-abuse sessions in that event. A number of the Summit panelists then said they were going to back out unless something changed, but things seem to be headed toward a resolution — hence BuzzFeed’s return to the festival.

SXSW could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

* Vox Media owns this website.

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