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Twitter, Facebook Pull Out Of South By Southwest Festival Over Coronavirus Concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Bay Area social media giants Facebook and Twitter have cancelled plans to send its employees to and take part in the annual lifestyle, tech, entertainment and music festival -- SXSW -- in Austin later this month.

In an Tuesday appearance on CBSN Bay Area, CNET Senior Editor Claire Reilly said both companies considered the risks posed by travel and large gatherings during the current coronavirus outbreak and decided to cancel their plans.

"Companies are beginning to realize this isn't a problem in just one part of the world," Reilly said. "They are doing something to make sure their staff is safe and that they are not making the problem worse. We've seen both Twitter and Facebook pull out of the South By Southwest conference in Austin."

"This (SXSW) is kind of an advertising, cultural, rock music -- it's where all the cool people go I'm told. But what we seen them (Facebook and Twitter) do is (determine) that it's not worth risking their employees safety."

Reilly said Facebook and Twitter are large companies, so they can take a marketing hit from not having a presence this year.

"Whether other companies follow suit with this particular conference we'll have to wait and see," she said.

Facebook had a number of employees who were slated to be guest speakers on festival panels and also planned to once again host the popular Facebook house exhibit. Twitter announced on Sunday that CEO Jack Dorsey was pulling out of his commitment to be a major speaker at the festival.

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for festival to be cancelled this year, but organizers said Tuesday they still intended to go forward with the event from March 13-22.

Reilly said the cancellation of travel is just one precaution the Bay Area tech companies were taking. Tele-commuting was also becoming a popular choice.

"Twitter has said to their employees work from home if you can," Reilly said. "A lot of companies are starting to test out procedures -- remote tele-conferencing, phone calls of meetings, getting the processes in place in case this (the coronavirus outbreak) is a little more longer term."

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