Facebook and Twitter pull out of SXSW, but it looks set to go ahead

3 Mar 2020

Image: © Andrei/Stock.adobe.com

As the coronavirus outbreak impacts major tech industry events, Facebook and Twitter have decided to pull out of SXSW, while Google has cancelled Cloud Next.

While many industries are struggling amid the coronavirus outbreak, the tech industry has taken a number of hits, from manufacturing and supply chain issues to the cancellation of conferences and the disruption of working life.

After events such as Mobile World Congress, Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference, the Game Developers Conference and the Geneva Motor Show have been called off or moved online to mitigate the spread of the virus, it looks as though there is more disruption to come.

Yesterday (2 March), Facebook announced that it was pulling out of South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual music and technology festival that takes place in Austin, Texas. SXSW told Reuters that it plans to go ahead with the festival, despite a “handful” of cancellations related to the coronavirus outbreak. SXSW is due to take place from 13 to 20 March.

‘Not participating’

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

Prior to Facebook’s announcement, Twitter said it was halting all “non-critical business travel and events” until a vaccine for Covid-19 was made available or until “the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control deem it appropriate to step back from pandemic precautionary measures”.

This means that Twitter has also dropped out of SXSW, where CEO Jack Dorsey was supposed to be a keynote speaker. Speaking to The Verge earlier this week, Twitter a spokesperson said that the “variety of events and programming” planned for the company’s #TwitterHouse at SXSW have been cancelled.

Although organisers of SXSW are happy for the event to continue despite the cancellations, an online petition urging the organisers to cancel in light of the coronavirus outbreak has been signed nearly 30,000 times.

Other recent cancellations

Google also announced that its cloud-focused event Cloud Next, which was set to attract around 30,000 visitors in San Francisco, would also be cancelled. The event, which was scheduled to run from 6 to 8 April, will now be held online, with the keynote speakers and breakout sessions going ahead as planned.

In an announcement, Google said: “Innovation is in Google’s DNA and we are leveraging this strength to bring you an immersive and inspiring event this year without the risk of travel.”

The virtual event will be free to ‘attend’, and refunds will be offered to anyone who purchased a ticket for this year’s conference. Google has also automatically cancelled all hotel reservations made through its conference reservation system.

The cancellation leaves Google’s other upcoming conference, I/O 2020, up in the air. The outlook for the event, set to be held in California from 12 to 14 May, has not yet been discussed publicly by the company.

Another event disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak is Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference, which was expected to attract 10,000 visitors to San Jose later this month. Nvidia said it will still share its announcements and ensure that its speakers will be able to share their talks, but that this will happen online.

Nvidia wrote: “We will be working with our conference speakers to begin publishing their talks online beginning in the weeks ahead. Additionally, for those in Nvidia’s developer programme, we plan to schedule availability with our researchers, engineers and solution architects to answer technical questions.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic