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Security tight at first ever SXSW Online Harassment Summit

SXSW panel discusses online game harassment/KEYE-TV

AUSTIN, Texas--The first ever Online Harassment Summit kicked off at SXSW today.

Last year festival organizers cancelled two planned sessions on online harassment but backlash led to the creation of a day long summit.

"We see how fear and intimidation has offline effects," panelist Michelle Ferrier said.

Security was tight at the Hyatt Regency Austin as panelist spoke about topics like overcoming harassment in games, cyber bullying and how tech is combating online hate.

"The conversation about online harassment is critical," Ferrier said.

Ferrier speaks as a victim of harassment herself as the first African American journalist at a newspaper in Florida.

"They came after me in a conservative effort with hate mail that was addressed to me at the newspaper for over three years," she said.

Ferrier eventually left the state and switch careers to escape the harassment.

Now she heads a service to combat cyber bullying called Troll-Busters.

"We operate on twitter and send positive messages into that stream to really dilute the stain of the trolls," she said.

Online harassment can range from stalking, rape threats even death threats.

The problem is extended to virtually every social media platform and online gaming communities.

"it's a long standing problem," said Katherine Cross, panelist for the "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games" session.

Cross, a lecturer and graduate student at CUNY, said online gaming communities can be toxic environments which is why strong moderation is needed.

She said developers need to consider building websites and games to promote civility.

"Building the website from the ground up around a more productive and constructive community," she said.

Another solution is to turn the responsibility of eliminating harassment to the gaming and online community itself.

Cross said this worked in League of Legends when developers created "tribunals" which were made of players who would consider punishment for gamers who got out of line.

"The tribunal empowered players to police their own behavior," she said. "When you treat players like citizens, they will act like citizens and that applies I think across the internet."

Panelist agreed local law enforcement should play a roll in fighting online harassment and should be educated on how it harms individuals.

"They don't see this online speech as credible threats that might result in something in the physical space," Ferrier said.

Law makers should also be part of the conversation by implementing laws to crack down on abusers.

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