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Meta, Google quit tech summit over organiser's Israel remarks

WASHINGTON: Meta and Google have pulled out of the Web Summit, one of the tech sector’s biggest annual events, after the organiser criticised Israel’s actions following the Hamas attacks, the companies said on Friday (Oct 20).

A spokesman for Meta confirmed to AFP that it would not take part in this year’s event, with Google telling the Irish Independent that it too would not be making the trip to Lisbon.

Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of the Web Summit, wrote on social media platform X last week that he was “shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments”.

“War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrave wrote on Oct 13.

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct 7, and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.

Israel says around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the area under attack.

More than 3,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the attacks by the Palestinian Islamist militant group, according to the latest toll from the Hamas health ministry in Gaza.

Related:

US Republican senators ask tech firms about content moderation in Israel-Hamas war

The boycott by Meta and Google follows other exits by companies and tech figures, including Intel, Siemens and US comedian Amy Poehler and X-files actor Gillian Anderson.

The Web Summit is due to host some 2,300 startups and more than 70,000 people on Nov 13 to Nov 16 in Lisbon.

Silicon Valley figure Garry Tan, of start-up backer Y-Combinator, initially kicked off the boycott and other big names in the industry quickly followed.

Cosgrave issued an apology on Tuesday.

“I understand that what I said, the timing of what I said, and the way it has been presented has caused profound hurt to many. To anyone who was hurt by my words, I apologise deeply,” he said.

“What is needed at this time is compassion, and I did not convey that,” the statement said.

Cosgrave said he “unreservedly” condemns Hamas’s “evil, disgusting and monstrous” attack on Israel and “unequivocally” supports Israel’s “right to exist and to defend itself”.

He also said that Israel should adhere to the Geneva Conventions, “ie, not commit war crimes”.

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