The Web Summit, which has grown from a 400-delegate event in Ireland in 2009 to a major forum attracting 70,000 attendees in Lisbon, has bowed to pressure and rescinded an invitation to speak to far-right politician Marine Le Pen.
Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, had previously defended his decision to invite Le Pen, justifying it as a defence of the right to free speech. However, an online backlash apparently led Cosgrave to perform a U-turn. He said: “Based on advice we have received on the large reaction online overnight, her presence is disrespectful in particular to our host country.”
Cosgrave had earlier described Ms Le Pen’s views as “wrongheaded”, but said it was important that the Web Summit did not shirk robust debate.
The Web Summit left Dublin in 2015, citing capacity issues and other problems.
“At Web Summit, we are ambitious to be a recognised platform for rigorous debate. In recent years, we’ve added dedicated private and public stages specifically for robust dialogue on contentious and defining issues of our time. But we’ve still much to learn,” Cosgrave added. “We welcome any suggestions as to who might be appropriate and also inappropriate to speak on a whole range of issues affecting society and technology.”
Ms Le Pen is the leader of the French National Front and contested the run-off presidential election with Emmanuel Macron in 2017, polling 33.94% of the vote.