#BoycottWebsummit unless you hate free speech and love Hamas butchering Jews & PR car crashes
By Tom Winnifrith | Tuesday 7 November 2023
Web Summit was founded in 2009 by Irishman Paddy Cosgrove and has grown to be the world’s biggest conference for folks involved in technology and the internet and a place where ideas are exchanged freely in a spirit of tolerance. That changed on October 7 when the world woke up to the horrors of the Hamas pogrom in Israel, the worst slaughter of Jews in one day since 1945. A company Cosgrove controls tweeted out a Palestinian flag on that day. It got worse.
Cosgrove tweeted out a series of messages in the following days and weeks expressing outrage at the Israeli response to October 7 but only folks started to kick up a fuss did he belatedly express any sympathy at all for the pogrom.
As the howls of protest grew Cosgrove stood defiant and boasted that his stance had been a net winner of business of sponsors for Web Summit.
But not only was there a mass boycott of Web Summit by companies based in the tech hub of Israel and by Jews abroad but big names like Google also pulled out of the forthcoming event in Lisbon on 13 November in protest and disgust.
And thus Cosgrove resigned and issued a weasel word apology apologizing not for what he had tweeted but to those who might have been offended by what he tweeted. This was a non apology and since he remains the largest shareholder in Web Summit his resignation changes little. He clearly has power within the organization and benefits personally from its success.
And an indication of that came when an Israeli entrepreneur and long time opponent of the Likud Government, a “tolerant lefty” called Ran Harnevo posted a superb 4 minutes 30 second video covering both the October 7 atrocity in rather upsetting detail but also the responses by Cosgrave which were revolting when seen in context. But you cannot see that video.
For 20 seconds of the video contained clips from Web Summit PR videos which it aggressively pushes and promotes across the interweb. And thus the video from @harnevo was removed from all social media channels as lawyers for Web Summit claimed copywrite breach. Technically, I suspect they are right but in the spirit of free speech which made Web Summit so popular they now seems ti be draconian protectors of Cosgrove and that, plus the revelation that Web Summit’s biggest sponsor is the State of Qatar which is also the biggest financial sponsor of Hamas, has seen even more folks turn away from Web Summit in revulsion.
Harnevo now promises to release a new video as Web Summit opens in Lisbon, which is just like the old one but removes any image which might be protected by copywrite so ensuring that the PR car crash gets worse. The Streisand effect means that this video will be watched by many more folks than watched the first one.
It is hard to see where Web Summit goes from here. I suspect that there will be many within the industry who will want nothing whatsoever to do with both the summit itself but also with anyone daft enough to sponsor it going forward. And while the revolting apologist for the worst pogrom since 1945, Cosgrove, is seen to gain financially from the success of Web Summit, it is simply toxic. How can anyone in the industry support a conference dedicated to free speech which seeks to crush dissenting voices in this way?