Facebook pulls out of SXSW conference over coronavirus concerns

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The spread of the coronavirus is impacting major tech conferences. 


Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook said Monday that it’s withdrawing from the SXSW conference because of coronavirus concerns, a move that comes shortly after Twitter announced it wasn’t attending the massive tech and culture event either. 

“Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. 

The spokesperson said the company didn’t have any additional details when asked how many employees were expected to attend SXSW. The big annual conference, also known as South by Southwest, is scheduled from March 13 to March 22 in Austin, Texas. The drop in participation from major tech companies raises questions about whether SXSW will be canceled weeks before it’s scheduled to kick off. More than 25,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for the cancellation of SXSW. 

Business Insider, which reported earlier about Facebook’s decision, said that SXSW organizers said earlier Monday that the event would still go on as scheduled. Several Facebook employees, including an engineer and designer, were scheduled to speak during the conference, according to SXSW’s website. Last year, SXSW brought in more than 400,000 attendees from 105 countries.

Facebook’s decision wasn’t a big surprise. The company canceled F8, its developer conference in San Jose, California, because of coronavirus concerns. Instead, the company plans to host local events and stream videos. The move also follows the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, the giant mobile phone conference held in Barcelona and the postponement of Game Developers Conference. On Monday, Google also said that its Cloud Next event in April will be held virtually this year with live streamed keynotes and sessions. 

The coronavirus, which was found in China in December, has sicken more than 90,200 people and killed at least 3,081 people. The virus causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.

Originally published March 2 at 4:34 p.m. PT

Update, 5:09 p.m. PT: Adds info about petition and Facebook employees expected to speak. 

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