Social media giant Facebook said Monday it will not participate in South by Southwest this year amid rising concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
“Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year,” Tracy Clayton, a Facebook spokesman, said by email Monday evening.
The company had a number of employees scheduled to be guest speakers on SXSW panels. It also planned to host a Facebook house and an activation in East Austin as part of its artists in residence program, Clayton said.
Facebook had already canceled two of its own conferences as a precaution and has implemented restrictions on travel.
Facebook is the second major tech company to pull out of the festival due to fears of coronavirus. On Sunday, Twitter announced a ban on all nonessential travel for employees and said CEO Jack Dorsey would no longer be a featured speaker at the event.
Internationally, concerns continue to rise about coronavirus. More than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for SXSW to be canceled.
SXSW officials said Monday afternoon that the festival, due to run March 13-22, will still go on as planned, and no Texas health officials have requested cancellation of any gatherings. The organizers said the situation will continue to be monitored.
“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,” festival officials said.