Facebook and Twitter cancel SXSW plans as coronavirus crisis rolls on

The South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas will be without the two social media giants Facebook and Twitter if it goes ahead from 13 March, after the companies decided to cancel their plans on the back of the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

No Facebook attendees will be attending the event, while Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey will no longer be presenting a keynote speech.

SXSW is still going ahead at this stage

Twitter said it was limiting all non-essential travel and “operating with an abundance of caution and the utmost dedication to keeping our Tweeps healthy”.

While many of Twitter’s offices remain open for business should employees wish to come in, those in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea must work from home “due in part to government restrictions”.

“Beginning today, we are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us,” the company said in a blog post.

“Our goal is to reduce the risk that anyone at Twitter might contract or inadvertently spread the virus. It is important that we take these proactive steps to protect ourselves and others and minimise the spread of COVID-19.”

Facebook too has notified SXSW organisers it will be unable to participate this year.

“Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year,” Antonia Sanda, head of communications for Facebook Australia, told Mumbrella.

Facebook already cancelled its F8 developer conference, which was due to take place in California’s San Jose. The company said it wouldn’t be an inclusive get-together if certain nationalities were excluded, and that it needed to prioritise the health and safety of its developer partners, employees and everyone involved with F8.

SXSW organisers still plan to proceed with the event.

“At this time, no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low,” SXSW officials said.

An updated statement said: “SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority.”

Hilary Clinton, TBWA Media Arts Lab global chief creative officer Brent Anderson, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and IMDB co-founder and CEO Col Needham are all due to speak at the event.


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