TikTok is backing out of Austin’s South By Southwest global music-tech festival, the company has confirmed to Rolling Stone. Joining Facebook and Twitter, TikTok — which has been exploding in both user growth and employee count around the world in recent months — is the latest major tech company to pull out of the March festival in light of safety concerns from the ongoing coronavirus.
“TikTok has decided not to participate in SXSW this year. 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,” the company says in a statement to Rolling Stone. “We are looking at a variety of alternative ways to bring parts of the previously scheduled experience to audiences in creative new forms.”
SXSW said in a statement last week that the festival had seen a “handful of cancellations” because of the coronavirus, but it hadn’t seen more any cancellations than usual. Among those was China Gathering, a platform that’s brought Chinese entrepreneurs and musicians to SXSW for the past three festivals.
But more than 20,000 people have called for the event to be canceled via online petition, citing the risks of gathering a mass-scale global community in one place. In the last week, Facebook and Twitter have both pulled their employees from the event, causing the cancelation of several dozen speakers and many more attendees.
When asked for comment on TikTok’s Tuesday announcement, a SXSW spokesperson directed Rolling Stone to the festival’s coronavirus frequently asked questions page.”Regarding the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event,” the site reads. “As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, we are proceeding with the 2020 event with the health and safety of our attendees, staff, and volunteers as our top priority.”