VidCon 2016–2017

Just over a year ago, Uplift kicked off Elephant at the Con, a project dedicated to collecting data and uplifting survivor stories to shed light on harassment, abuse, and inclusion issues at conventions.

Data

In total we collected data from 126 VidCon attendees. Last year we conducted a similar survey. Below are the comparisons from year to year. 

Some notes on the survey method from 2016 to 2017:

  • In 2016, we surveyed people directly at our booth about their experience at the con, while this resulted in a higher percentage of people filling out the survey, it did result in answers limited to part of the conference. In 2017, we collected emails at the booth and sent a survey to attendees after the con.
  • The questions were the same from 2016 to 2017 with the exception that we added a note clarifying that submissions will be shared with VidCon and in future Uplift publications and to specify if you didn’t want stories to be shared publicly.
  • In 2016, we assumed that anyone who just wrote Female for gender identified as Cis Female. This was an incorrect assumption that we corrected for 2017, in future years we may add a field for attendees to optionally share if they are cis or trans.
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right
2016 on the left, 2017 on the right

Stories

Mobs

“I have been attending VidCon since the 2015 convention and this may have been the most insane one I have seen yet. I know that security has been upped, but I feel as if some of the bigger creators were reckless when it came to holding their own meetups and everything. There were several creators who were being chased down by their fans while screaming. I understand it’s something that many of the younger fans don’t understand, but warning the creators better could have prevented it. I just feel sorry for the creators and the fact that the sudden running/chasing puts themselves and others in danger.”


“There was some dangerous mobbing of a YouTuber where a Security guard fell and got trampled.”


“I got trampled in a mob chipped my tooth bruised my arm and scrape my leg and broke my $800 camera when I fell in a mob.”


“It was very heartbreaking watching the creators we love being tackled and getting their badges taken away by security.


“There was a issue that got huge where a “famous person” wanted to get in but didn’t have a badge the the security told him he can’t come in and they person starting calling him names etc.”

Security

“The only time I felt unsafe was Saturday evening on the plaza when a mob was forming near me around some famous creator and people were running, and then the crowd that formed blocked the walkway on the south side of the fountain entirely. As a volunteer, I was trained to always alert security when I saw something unsafe, so that’s what I did. The security guard seemed utterly unconcerned. When I pressed him, he explained that his company was only responsible for the plaza area inside the metal barriers, and that a different security company was in charge of the other side of the barrier (where this mob had formed.) Mind you, this was happening just feet away from his station, and the fans had to pass through the barrier he was guarding in order to join the mob. I asked if he knew how I could contact the other company, and he didn’t know. What was the name of the other company? No clue. Which color shirts should I look for? He didn’t know. I didn’t see any other security guards from a different company within view. I was quite disappointed in his “not my job” attitude. At the very least he could have stopped more people from passing through his side of the barrier to join the mob, or helped me send the message up the chain or find the other company.”


“The security guards were assaulting [some] users”


Badges

“There were people who snuck in and didn’t have badges. That made me a little unsafe.”


“I did not feel safe all. The second day I went im my badge wasn’t around my neck and not one guard say anything.”
“Security did not check for badges until day 3, they used their authority only when they wanted to.”

Long Lines in the Heat

“The meet and greet line was so long and so unorganised and waiting in the sun isn’t safe and not having water on offer becomes a health and safety issue”


Women Online / Cyberbullying panel

‘When walking back to my hotel, I was behind a group of men saying they were planning on going to a cyberbully panel to ’see if they could trigger some people.’”


“A few combative men and a woman verbally harassed the women on the Women Online panel during the Q&A. They were removed from the microphone shortly afterwards. Still made for an uncomfortable moment for everyone, as we were at the panel to hear about overcoming that exact thing. Their comments were rude, sexist, and disruptive.”


“I had a friend attend the Women Online panel in which they felt very unsafe as there were many known harassers in the audience. She was scared to go to any other “women only” panels in fear that something might happen. I had another friend who was walking by a group of white males who mentioned attending the cyber bullying panel in order to, basically, “bully” those on the panel. She tweeted the VidCon twitter to tell them about it and suggest more security at that panel.”


“I felt genuinely terrified during/after the Women Online Discussion panel. Prior to the panel, we were approached by a member of the harassing group, who asked us strange questions regarding our gender and privilege. Though their comments seemed off, they did not become fully apparent until put into the context of that individual’s attendance of the event. (We did not know their reasoning until the panel began). That individual then proceeded to take selfies during the event with me and my friends in the background, which was extremely upsetting, given the nature of their online presence. Being surrounded by harassers was extremely triggering and reminded me of all of my fears about being a Female creator. I would like to see VidCon to take steps to prevent this type of dynamic, including banning individuals known to be harassers. I realize this is not an easy task, of course, but it would make me feel safe at VidCon, which I did not after this panel.”


“I learned from a friend that groups of anti-feminist/hateful men were following popular feminist YTers from panel to panel and taking up blocks of space”
“The whole situation with the Women on YouTube panel definitely made me feel less safe and more on edge the whole weekend.”

VidCon affects more than just the Convention Center

“You should work with the hotels. If the convention owners ban a kid from VidCon, the hotels should be willing to remove him from the property or the drama will continue. If the act was illegal please press charges.” — Parent


“My kids received harassing text messages from a creator.”

Sexual Harassment

“I saw two girls being sexually harassed by a young male YouTuber for a video. He was grabbing one of their arm, trying to drag them to where they were filming and force them to lick his friends naked torso, even though they said they didn’t want to. I stepped in and he threw insults back at me but eventually left. Vidcon security and volunteers were made aware.”

A few years ago VidCon was a space where many YouTubers filmed harassing prank videos and VidCon cracked down on it, such that it was better in 2016. Unfortunately this year it seems like it returned.

Yes, early on in the Con Rowan Ellis (@HeyRowanEllis) tweeted about having to stop a guy from sexual harassing a girl. I did feel for this girl and worried about my safety as well.

This last comment reiterates the point from the Women Online section. Even if incidents do not happen to an individual, hearing about incidents happening at the con, particularly if they are perceived to go unaddressed, can contribute to feeling less safe.

Trans Issues

“I felt uncomfortable sharing my name with VidCon staff because I bought the ticket under my legal birth name, which I assumed was necessary, but I prefer to not say it aloud. In this situation I was just unclear if my legal name was required for official Vidcon interactions.”

Verbal Abuse

“There was an incident with a volunteer while I was volunteering where we were having a discussion and then they verbally abused me which lead me to have a panic attack. Then later on they proceeded to come back near me while still partially in my panic attack and put their hand on my back to try to talk to me which lead me back into another panic attack. Because of this, I won’t be volunteering again.”

Accessibility

Surprisingly, we did not get any feedback in our survey about accessibility. People stopping by our booth expressed issues they had with people not respecting their service animals. (Reminder to all: do not touch or otherwise distract service animals. Ever.) and many users did tweet about their experiences with accessibility at VidCon

The community had many stages in close proximity to each other making it hard for people like Sangeeta to hear the panelists.

Unfortunately this did not change this year. The only entrance designated for accessibility involved a long walk around the convention center outside and then a set of stairs next to a sign labeling “ADA entrance”. See this blog for an elaboration on why “ADA entrance” is not the best name for the sign.

As Rikki elaborates on in the video below, when the attendees approached security and staff about the lack of captions, it was suggested that the interpreters should interpret the entire movie for them. This is not an effective use of resources or what interpreters are trained for.