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Coronavirus prompts Facebook to cancel marketing summit

IBM also pulls out of RSA Conference taking place in San Francisco in February.

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- 02:35
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Facebook canceled a summit in San Francisco over coronavirus fears, and IBM pulled out of RSA Conference, also taking place in San Francisco. Shown here are travelers at San Francisco International Airport.

Fears over a novel coronavirus, now officially named SARS-CoV-2, have prompted tech companies to cancel plans Friday for major events in San Francisco. Facebook canceled a marketing summit scheduled for early March, which was expected to draw 4,000 people. Additionally, IBM canceled its participation in RSA Conference, a major cybersecurity event scheduled for the week of Feb. 24.

"Our priority is the health and safety of our teams, so out of an abundance of caution, we cancelled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus," said Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison. The cancellation was earlier reported by Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle.

IBM is a corporate sponsor of RSA Conference and was sending keynote speakers to address the event, which typically draws more than 40,000 people. The week-long event also takes place at Moscone Center, which is in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco, transforming the area into a small city of cybersecurity experts, software vendors and major corporations looking to strike deals and share the latest trends.

"The health of IBMers continues to be our primary concern as we monitor upcoming events and travel relative to novel coronavirus," IBM said in a statement. "As a result, we are canceling our participation in this year's RSA Conference."

RSA Conference organizers said they still plan to proceed as scheduled and will continue to follow the guidance of health organizations and the city of San Francisco. 

The changes in plans, which follow the cancellation of Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, show that the tech industry hasn't seen the end of the viral outbreak's impact. Mobile World Conference is a huge tech event that draws phone makers from around the world and was expected to feature announcements of new phones with 5G capabilities at this year's proceedings. The outbreak, which is centered in Hubei province of China but has spread to several more countries, has also prompted predictions that manufacturing will slow, delaying the release of new devices.

Concerns over bringing people from around the world into a single place for meet and greets have prompted companies to think twice about major events. At another security event in San Francisco in January, the Enigma Conference, participants were encouraged to wave at each other instead of shaking hands, and large containers of hand sanitizer were available in several locations.

The total number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, in the US was 15 as of Friday. In China, the total diagnosed was 66,292.

Originally published Feb. 14, 4:28 p.m. PT.
Update, 5:13 p.m.: Adds statement from Facebook confirming event cancellation; 5:28 p.m.: Adds comment from RSA.

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