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Paddy Cosgrave returns as Web Summit CEO

Paddy Cosgrave, the co-founder of the Web Summit tech conference, is returning to his role as CEO after resigning in October over controversial statements he made about the Israel/Gaza war last year on social media.

Rumors of his return began to surface over the weekend; Cosgrave confirmed the move in a post on X today.

Notably, in his announcement, Cosgrave does not make any mention of the politicized remarks he made that led to his departure less than six months ago (with the social media posts he wrote at the time deleted as well, aside from his public apology).

Instead, Cosgrave goes for de-escalating, announcing plans for a shift in focus to “smaller” groups.

“As Web Summit becomes bigger, our aim should be to make it smaller for our attendees. More intimate. More convivial. More community focused,” he writes.

In doing so, the move is reminiscent of Mark Zuckerberg’s shift to “community” at Facebook in the wake of the social network’s huge post-2016 election scandal (Cambridge Analytica, election manipulation, congressional hearings and the rest).

Web Summit runs a number of very large, global, tech conferences, the best known and biggest of which is in Lisbon, which in recent years attracted upwards of 70,000 attendees. The list also includes smaller, invite-only events under brands including F.ounders for later-stage founders, and other similar events.

Its flagship event went through a tumultuous period last year after it was engulfed in criticism from its large tech sponsors, who pulled out of the Lisbon Web Summit, just weeks out from it taking place, in the wake of Cosgrave’s remarks.

The controversy started when, shortly after October 7, the day of the Hamas massacre of Israeli citizens, Cosgrave posted data on X pertaining to the human cost of the Israel-Palestine conflict between 2008 and 2023, but — inexplicably — omitted any mention of the tragic events (and casualties) of that weekend.

Cosgrave also posted support for the Irish government’s criticism of Israel’s implied plans to cut off water and electricity to Gaza as part of its plans for the war.

(Later, Israel indeed did cut off water and electricity to Gaza, and the country’s government has been accused, by a vote in the UN’s Human Rights Council most recently, of actions that could amount to war crimes.)

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