April 21, 2024
AI leaders back out of Web Summit after CEO's comments about Israel


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The Israel-Hamas war continues to impact the AI and tech industry today as several leaders announced they are backing out of Lisbon’s Web Summit, Europe’s biggest tech conference, after the event’s founder and CEO, Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave, called Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks “war crimes” in a series of posts on X (formerly Twitter).

“I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing,” Cosgrave said in a post on Friday. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”

Cosgrave doubled down on his comments today, saying that he “would not relent.”

A variety of AI and tech leaders cancelling appearances

A variety of AI and tech leaders have announced they will cancel their appearances at Web Summit in response.

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Today, Garry Tan, president and CEO of Y combinator, tweeted that he is cancelling his appearance at Web Summit, while Ori Goshen, co-founder of AI21 Labs, said he is cancelling his keynote speech. Sequoia partner Ravi Gupta has cancelled his attendance, and Keith Peiris, co-founder and CEO of Tome, said he has cancelled his Web Summit talk.

VC Josh Kopelman noted that next year’s Web Summit is scheduled to be in Qatar, which has been called out for human rights issues:

Some are also tweeting at Big Tech sponsors of Web Summit, such as Intel (which is one of the biggest global companies working in Israel) and AWS to cancel their sponsorships, while others are using the hashtag #cancelwebsummit.

In addition, the Israeli ambassador to Portugal, Dor Shapira, said today that Israel will not participate in Web Summit’s Lisbon event. He posted on X/Twitter that he had written to the mayor of Lisbon, informing him of Israel’s decision to pull out of the conference “due to the outrageous statements” made by Cosgrave.

With over 70,000 attendees from over 150 countries, Web Summit is considered one of the largest and most influential technology conferences in the world. It brings together leaders, innovators, and experts and offers opportunities for networking, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Web Summit also attracts a significant number of venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate investors, where startups can pitch their ideas, seek funding, and establish connections.

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