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Paddy Cosgrave returns as Web Summit CEO after resigning over Israel/Gaza controversy

Paddy Cosgrave, the co-founder of Web Summit technology conference who resigned in October over controversial comments he made on social media about the Israel/Gaza war last year, is returning as CEO. Rumors about his return began to surface over the weekend.Cosgrave confirmed the move Post on X today.

Notably, Cosgrave’s statement made no reference to the political statements he made (social media posts he wrote at the time have also been deleted). Instead, Cosgrave advocates for a planned shift in focus, drawing on Mark Zuckerberg’s move toward “community” at Facebook in the wake of Facebook’s huge post-2016 election scandals (Cambridge Analytica, election rigging, congressional hearings, etc.) to smaller groups.

“As Web Summit gets bigger, our goal should be to make it smaller for attendees. More intimate. More convivial. More community-focused,” he wrote.

Of course, smaller groups provide a way for larger entities, whether social networks or events, to cater to different agendas and opinions. And, more opportunistically, with Facebook, the impression of small communities is to balance larger business goals.

Web Summit hosts many global technology conferences, the most famous and largest of which is held in Lisbon, attracting more than 70,000 attendees in recent years.

The flagship event endured a tumultuous period last year after it came under fire from big tech sponsors, who pulled out of the event following Cosgrave’s comments.

The controversy began on October 7, the day Hamas massacred Israeli citizens, when Cosgrave released data on casualties from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between 2008 and 2023, but ignored the incident (and casualties) . weekend.

In the face of outcry, Cosgrave continued to double down on his efforts in subsequent posts.

Cosgrave also published an article in support of the Irish government’s criticism of Israel for hinting at plans to cut off Gaza’s water and electricity as part of its war plans.

cosgrave twitter

cosgrave twitter

That was the final straw for many Web Summit speakers, with the loudest criticism coming from Israeli venture capitalists and founders who were subsequently backed by U.S. tech founders and investors.

Large sponsors including Microsoft and Google subsequently withdrew from the conference.

Under pressure, Cosgrave apologized for the offense caused by the posts and resigned as CEO. (Israel later did cut off water and electricity to Gaza.)

In the build-up to the Lisbon event, Web Summit quickly appointed Wikimedia CEO Catherine Maher to succeed Cosgrave as CEO, although Cosgrave retains 80% ownership of the business.

It was a very short tenure: Maher left Web Summit after just a few months to become CEO of NPR, leaving Cosgrave’s company leaderless again but also laying the groundwork for Cosgrave’s return.

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