Facebook, Google among those kicking some cash over to Silicon Valley communities affected by coronavirus cancellations

Key Points
  • Facebook and Google are among Silicon Valley companies offering consolations to their local communities that have been affected by them pulling large events.
  • But while many tech companies like Google, Zoom and Microsoft are offering their productivity services for free to digital communities, few have addressed their surrounding physical communities.
  • While the funds aren't much in scope, they represent the companies feeling the need to acknowledge how their pull-outs affect their backyards.  
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018.
Stephen Lam | Reuters

As Silicon Valley companies cancel their massive annual conferences amid the coronavirus spreading, they're kicking some cash over to the cities that were supposed to host them.

Nearly all the major tech companies have announced decisions to cancel, alter and pull out of various upcoming conferences which have been their biggest annual events. More than 100,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed around the world. California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and San Francisco officials reported its first two confirmed cases Thursday, triggering large employers like Facebook and Google to tell employees to work from home. 

Pulling events and keeping employees home means some areas will get a lot less foot traffic than they expected, which can be a sore spot for San Francisco Bay Area cities like San Jose, whose residents have complained that the tech companies' rapid expansions have contributed to the region's issues surrounding displacement and housing. But companies are trying to mitigate the damage with contributions.

Google announced that its Google Cloud Next 2020 event that was scheduled for April 6 through 8th in San Francisco will only be held virtually. Shortly after, the company canceled Google I/O, the company's big annual in-person develop conference that draws in more than 7,000 attendees to its headquarters' backyard in Mountain View, California.

The company now says it will donate $1 million to local Mountain View organizations to support small businesses, increase computer science opportunities for Mountain View schools, and increase awareness and education efforts around coronavirus, the company told CNBC.

Facebook also canceled two events, including its annual developer conference F8, which was scheduled for April in San Jose and was expected to draw more than 5,000 attendees. To make up for the disruption, Facebook is doubling its usual donation to the San Jose community to $500,000 this year. Because it typically hosts local students at the conference, the company added that it will it will still provide "F8-inspired experiences for those students in lieu of hosting them at the event itself."

"Working with the next generation of developers is one of the highlights of what we do," wrote Facebook's vice president of platform partnerships Konstantinos Papamiltiadis in a blog post. "We remain committed to the city of San Jose, where we've hosted F8, and its community,"

After dropping an event in San Francisco, Facebook said it will donate $20,000 in cash to the Chinese Newcomers Service Center (CNSC), a local San Francisco-based nonprofit, which supports businesses in its Chinatown. The company said it would be donating another $5,000 total in non-expiring Facebook ad credits to those in the community who want it, a Facebook spokesperson said.

San Francisco's Chinatown has seen a decline in business as a result of the fear around the coronavirus, which originated in China before spreading globally. City officials said San Francisco's Chinese American, Chinese immigrant and other Asian American communities have been targeted by racist behavior since the coronavirus began, despite being zero cases there.

Facebook also said it will provide free advertisements to the World Health Organization (WHO) in attempts to keep misinformation on its platform at bay. Google said it is donating $25 million in ad credits to the WHO and government agencies and will make more available if needed.

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