SXSW 2020’s fate uncertain after Twitter, Facebook pull out amid coronavirus fears

Facebook, Twitter, and Intel have decided not to attend at the annual South by Southwest festival (SXSW), amid concerns about the coronavirus. Twitter was the first to cancel, including a planned keynote with CEO Jack Dorsey. With three of the biggest companies no longer attending, it remains unclear whether SXSW will take place as usual this year.

On Sunday, Twitter announced it was suspending ”non-critical business travel and events” until a vaccine is available or the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control “deem it appropriate to step back from pandemic precautionary measures.” On Monday, Facebook followed suit and canceled its attendance. “Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our companies and employees will not be participating in SXSW,” Facebook said in a statement to Business Insider on Monday. By Tuesday, Intel had released its own statement: “After careful consideration, we have withdrawn from on-site activities at this year’s SXSW. We are grateful to SXSW for their understanding and look forward to attending and supporting future events.”

This isn’t the first tech-centric event shut down by concerns over spreading the virus. Mobile World Congress was canceled, as was Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference.

Though South by Southwest officials said they had no plans to cancel the festival as of Sunday, a petition with over 24,000 signatures is up on Change.org. The event is scheduled to take place between March 13 and 22 in Austin, Texas. In 2018, over 75,000 people attended the conference, with 161,000 more at the music events and nearly 73,000 at the film festival. “SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event,” according to an updated statement from March 2 on the event’s website.

Thus far, U.S. health officials have identified almost 100 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That includes a patient in San Antonio, Texas, who was released and later tested positive for the illness. Worldwide, over 88,000 people have become sick and more than 3,000 deaths have been reported.

Updated on March 3, 20202: Added information about Intel dropping out of SXSW.

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