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Twitter pulls out of SXSW because of coronavirus concerns

CEO Jack Dorsey was scheduled to deliver a keynote address.

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- 03:01
Grumpy Cat along 6th Street

SXSW draws hundreds of thousands to Austin, Texas, every March.

James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Twitter is pulling out of the SXSW conference and festivals for 2020 over coronavirus concerns, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed Monday. 

A blog post from Twitter on Sunday noted that 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. 

Twitter's attendance would have included a keynote address from CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as a larger presence from the company. In past years, Twitter has hosted speakers and events at its "Twitter House."

Twitter provided additional guidance Monday afternoon, saying it wants all Twitter employees worldwide to begin working from home where possible.

"Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us -- and the world around us," the blog post says. For those who need to come into the office, Twitter said it's "increasing deep cleaning and sanitizing in all spaces."

South by Southwest, which started in 1987, is a massive annual event in Austin, Texas, that includes a conference and multiple festivals that focus on music, tech, film, culture and comedy. According to reports, SXSW brought in more than 400,000 attendees from 105 countries in 2019.

It's set to begin March 13 and run through March 22.

For Twitter, SXSW itself is a notable event in its history. SXSW gave the platform with its first big buzz in 2007. On Monday, Facebook also said that it was no longer participating in SXSW either. 

As for the larger fate of SXSW: As of March 1, the event is slated to go on as usual. According to the attendee safety resources page of the website, "SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority."

The coronavirus originated in the Hubei province of China in late 2019. It has infected about 90,000 people and killed more 3,000 in two months. It has spread to more than 60 countries, with significant outbreaks in South Korea, Japan and Italy. 

Twitter isn't the first company to pull back on an event in light of coronavirus. The GSMA, which puts on the phone industry event Mobile World Congress in late February in Barcelona, Spain, nixed its show. The Game Developers Conference postponed its massive event set for mid-March in San Francisco. Facebook canceled its F8 developers conference, which would have taken place in May in San Jose, California.

Originally published March 2.
Update, 8:13 a.m. PT: Adds additional background. 8:20 a.m. PT; Adds additional background on SXSW and coronavirus. 8:26 a.m. PT; Adds background on canceled events; 3:27 p.m. PT: Adds update from Twitter; 5:14 p.m. PT: Adds background about Facebook dropping out of SXSW. 

CNET's Corinne Reichert and Queenie Wong contributed to this report.