AI leaders back out of Web Summit after CEO’s comments about Israel

AI leaders back out of Web Summit after CEO’s comments about Israel

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The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has rippled into the technology and artificial intelligence sector, as a number of industry leaders have withdrawn from the Web Summit in Lisbon, Europe’s premier technology conference. This decision comes in response to the event’s founder and CEO, Paddy Cosgrave, publicly decrying Israel’s retaliatory actions against Hamas as “war crimes.”

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. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.

— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 13, 2023

The Web Summit, known for its impressive roster of global tech luminaries and innovative startups, serves as a crucial networking platform in the tech world. It’s a spotlight for cutting-edge technology and a venue for critical discussions around the industry’s future. The impact of these notable withdrawals could potentially disrupt the event’s influence, signaling a significant development in the intersection of technology, politics, and global issues.

Cosgrave, an Irish entrepreneur known for his outspoken nature, took to X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) to express his views.

“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,” he posted last Friday. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.” He remained unyielding in his stance, affirming that he “would not relent.”

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In protest, a variety of AI and tech leaders have announced they will cancel their appearances at Web Summit in response. 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.

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