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Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix withdraw from SXSW over coronavirus concerns

The cancellations come roughly two weeks before the start of the annual gathering.

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SXSW is scheduled from March 13 to March 22 in Austin, Texas.

Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Amazon Studios won't be going to the SXSW conference and festivals, making it the latest company to cancel its presence amid growing coronavirus concerns. Earlier this week, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok said they wouldn't attend the massive culture and tech event.

The big conference, also known as South by Southwest, is scheduled from March 13 to March 22 in Austin, Texas. The drop in participation from major tech companies raises questions about whether SXSW will be canceled in the weeks before it's scheduled to kick off. More than 25,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for the cancellation of SXSW. On Wednesday, however, Austin health officials said SXSW would go on as planned

Netflix on Wednesday reportedly canceled its plans for the festival, including five film screenings. The streaming service was expected to show Uncorked and four documentaries: A Secret Love, L.A. Originals, Mucho Mucho Amor, Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics, according to Variety . Amazon on Wednesday reportedly canceled all its plans for SXSW, including screenings and panels for two upcoming Amazon Prime Video series as well as an event with magazine Entertainment Weekly. Netflix and Amazon didn't immediately respond to requests for additional information.

Apple has also reportedly withdrawn, canceling plans to screen three new Apple TV Plus originals at the festival, including the world premiere of Spike Jonze's documentary Beastie Boys Story.

On Monday, a Facebook spokesperson said that "due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year." The spokesperson couldn't provide details about the number of employees who'd been expected to attend SXSW. 

Over the weekend, a Twitter blog post noted the company is adjusting its travel policy. "On February 29, we informed our people and started notifying partners that we are suspending all non-critical business travel and events," the blog post said. A day later the company said the policy included travel to Texas for SXSW, where CEO Jack Dorsey had been scheduled to make a keynote address. In past years, Twitter has hosted speakers and events at its "Twitter House."

TikTok, the Chinese company behind the popular same-named app, said Tuesday that it wouldn't attend the gathering either. "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," a spokesperson said in an email. "We are looking at a variety of alternative ways to bring parts of the previously scheduled experience to audiences in creative new forms."

Business Insider, which reported earlier about Facebook's decision, noted that conference organizers said earlier Monday that SXSW would still go on as scheduled. Several Facebook employees, including an engineer and designer, were scheduled to speak during the conference, according to SXSW's website. Last year, SXSW brought in more than 400,000 attendees from 105 countries.

Facebook's decision wasn't a big surprise. The company canceled F8, its developer conference in San Jose, California, because of coronavirus concerns. Instead, the company plans to host local events and stream videos. The move also follows the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, the giant mobile phone conference held in Barcelona and the postponement of the Game Developers Conference. On Monday, Google also said that its Cloud Next event in April will be held virtually this year, with livestreamed keynote presentations and sessions. 

The coronavirus, which was found in China in December, has infected more than 90,000 people and killed more than 3,000. The virus causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.