Coronavirus prompts Facebook to cancel marketing summit, reports say

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Facebook reportedly canceled a summit in San Francisco over coronavirus fears, and IBM pulled out of RSA Conference, also taking place in San Francisco.


Robert Rodriguez/CNET

Fears over a novel coronavirus, now officially named SARS-CoV-2, have reportedly 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, according to reports by Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle. Additionally, IBM canceled its participation in RSA Conference, a major cybersecurity event scheduled for the week of Feb. 24.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a company spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that the event was no longer taking place next month “out of an abundance of caution.”

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 event takes place over a week 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 didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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.


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