Reflections on the GamerGate Anniversary
In late October 2015, SXSW became a player in the GamerGate controversy as a result of a decision to accept (and then cancel and then re-accept) a panel session based on this topic. It was probably the least pleasant experiences I’ve had in 20+ years of working on this event. As one journalist said to me at a relatively early point in this episode: “GamerGate soils everything that it touches.”
We learned a ton from this crisis. In terms of big picture, “haste makes waste” was probably the lesson most applicable in the most different life situations. Because for all the mis-steps and wrong turns we made during this unfortunate turn of events, almost every single one could have been avoided if we had slowed the process down. As opposed to simply trying to act quickly to overcome an immediate obstacle, we should have focused on deliberately thinking, re-thinking and re-re-thinking the implications of our actions. Rushing to a decision almost always produces a bad one.
GamerGate also taught us about the strength of Breitbart publishing, long before the leaders of this lowest common denominator media company took over the narrative of the 2016 presidential election. We often say that SXSW serves as a preview of what will be hot in the future — I wish this claim hadn’t been uncannily accurate in this particular instance.
In the 12 months since this crisis, we have seen some progress in terms of mitigating the scourge of online trolling. At CES in January 2016, Intel and Lady Gaga announced a major strategic initiative against this problem. The Online Harassment Summit at SXSW 2016 also pushed forward new solutions. Unfortunately, the voices of hate are still much too prevalent on platforms such as Twitter, which is one of the reasons for the current struggles of this social network.