TikTok, Facebook, Intel join Twitter in pulling out of SXSW over coronavirus fears

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — TikTok has joined two other high-profile tech companies that say they won’t attend the South by Southwest festival happening later this month over fears of the novel coronavirus.

TikTok, Facebook and Intel confirmed to KXAN they do not plan to send anyone to the tech conference, which draws tens of thousands of people from across the world to Austin.

“Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year,” Tracy Clayton, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a statement. An Intel spokesperson said the company has “withdrawn from on-site activities at this year’s SXSW.”

TikTok released a statement, saying, “While we think the risk is relatively low, we are erring on the side of caution as we prioritize safety for our team, creators, partners, artists, and brands. We are looking at a variety of alternative ways to bring parts of the previously scheduled experience to audiences in creative new forms.”

The companies join Twitter, which announced a company-wide non-essential travel ban over the weekend, in canceling plans to attend. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and CEO, was scheduled to be a featured speaker at the festival before canceling.

It comes as a petition to cancel the event gains steam; as of Tuesday morning, more than 30,000 people had signed on. But SXSW organizers say the festival will move forward as planned, “with the health and safety of our attendees, staff, and volunteers as our top priority,” organizers wrote Monday.

“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,” Austin Public Health (APH) wrote on its FAQ page for COVID-19, the disease this new coronavirus causes.

The conference is in constant contact with APH and state and federal health agencies, organizers say, and they’re providing hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes and spray. Staff members will also provide microphone wipe-downs and are in contact with venues and hotels about steps they can take.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, meanwhile, stands ready to act if APH requests a cancellation or change in plans. “This situation is being constantly monitored and re-evaluated daily,” Adler said in a statement.

SXSW runs from March 13-22. The conference drew 73,716 attendees last year, 19,166 of whom came from outside the U.S. Combined with SXSW Gaming and SXSW EDU (which starts next week), the 2019 event drew 417,400 attendees, organizers said. An economic impact report found it contributed $355.9 million to the local economy.

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