Facebook cancels conference, IBM pulls out of RSA over coronavirus worries

Facebook has canceled its worldwide marketing conference next month in San Francisco, while IBM and an unidentified Canadian company have pulled out of the RSA Conference in San Francisco later this month due to worries about the coronavirus.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our global marketing summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus,” Reuters quoted a Facebook spokesman as saying.

As for the RSA conference, IBM said Friday in a tweet that “the health of IBMers is our primary concern as we continue to monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

However, RSA conference organizers say the annual event is still scheduled to go on.

UPDATE: On February 21 Verizon withdrew from RSA Conference.

UPDATE: Cisco Systems has canceled its Velocity conference scheduled for March 10 in Austin, Texas, also due to virus concerns.

The notice from RSA said also said an unidentified Canadian firm has withdrawn. At publication time it isn’t known which Canadian firm that is. Past exhibitors have included large firms such as BlackBerry, but also a number of lesser-known startups that have small booths as part of a trade show pavilion sponsored by the Ontario and Canadian governments.

In an email Sunday evening Mauricio Ospina, the USA area director for information technology at Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, said 19 Canadian firms agreed and are still committed to going to the conference.

The total number of exhibitors, including IBM, that have cancelled their participation as an RSA Conference sponsor or exhibitor is eight. Six of them are from China.

RSA Conference is scheduled to start Feb. 23 with tutorials and seminars. It officially kicks off February 25th with opening keynotes.

RSA Conference organizers said in an online notice that as of last Friday approximately 82 per cent of registered attendees are from the United States, as are 82 percent of exhibitors. The travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. Government on January 31st remain in effect, the statement added. It also says that according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s situation summary late last week the health risk from coronavirus for the general American public was considered low.

Organizers said the conference will continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and the World Health Organization and is in close communication with the City of San Francisco to monitor all new developments pertaining to the coronavirus.

Last week organizers cancelled the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — also scheduled to start Feb. 23 — after a significant number of companies pulled out including BT (British Telecom), Facebook, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, Cisco, Amazon, Vodafone and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.

Cisco Systems cancelled a customer conference in Australia due to the virus. It also dropped plans to bring four foreign reporters, including one from IT World Canada, to cover the RSA Conference as well as a customer day on the conference sidelines.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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