Tech conference rescinds Marine Le Pen invitation after caving in to online pressure
France’s Marine Le Pen had her invitation to the Web Summit tech conference recalled after the organizers of the event, which is held in Portugal, got pounded with outraged messages from critics of the right-wing politician.
Le Pen, leader of Euroskeptic National Front party, vanished from the list of speakers at the annual tech conference on Wednesday afternoon, which is taking place in Lisbon on November 5-8. Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, who earlier defended Le Pen’s participation, citing freedom of speech, changed his mind after a huge social media storm and calls to boycott the event. He announced the decision in a lengthy thread on Twitter.
“It’s clear to me now that the correct decision for @WebSummit is to rescind Marine Le Pen’s invitation,” Cosgrave tweeted on Wednesday, adding that the decision was based on “the large reaction online,” and that Le Pen’s presence would be “disrespectful” both to Portugal and some of attendees of the meeting.
It’s clear to me now that the correct decision for @WebSummit is to rescind Marine Le Pen’s invitation.— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) 15 августа 2018 г.
“The issue of hate, freedom of expression and platform technologies is one of the defining questions of 2018. We will redouble our efforts to approach this difficult issue at Web Summit with more care,” he said.
In a post written less than 24 hours before recalling the invitation, Cosgrave had admitted that banning Le Pen would be just an “easy decision.” Calling Le Pen’s views “wrongheaded,” he said he believed that they would be adequately challenged by a “professional journalist” at the event.
“Web Summit is a place where people should be prepared to have their opinions deeply challenged, and in turn to deeply challenge the opinions of others,” the statement said.
He also noted that more than 30 percent of French voters chose Le Pen to be their candidate in last year’s presidential election.
Many Twitter users welcomed the Web Summit founder’s change of heart, while some said that Le Pen should never have been invited in the first place.
I would love to be pleased about Le Pen's invitation being rescinded, but she should never have been invited to begin with. It's not the first time WebSummit was disrespectful to its host country either. (Not) looking forward to see how you'll make our blood boil in the future. https://t.co/yYjEuYR5OL— Teresa Santos (@tessalsantos) 15 августа 2018 г.
To clear up any ambiguity, she should never ever have been invited.The die was cast as soon as she was, however. This isn't a victory per se. She has been denied a platform, but in turn her rhetoric has been strengthened. Victimisation brings support.— Rik G (@Tafdolphin) 15 августа 2018 г.
Incorrect, Portugal wins! Now everyone knows we don't want fascist here! Never again— Ana Almeida (@TANGRAMartworks) 15 августа 2018 г.
The main question remains: why did you invite her in the first place? This is a stain in @WebSummit image and culture.— António Costa (@AC_AntonioCosta) 15 августа 2018 г.
However, there were those who said that the organizers of the event had turned a deaf ear to democratic principles, as everyone should have the right to speak.
Nooo. Why did you do that? Democracy is so important nowadays. Everyone should be the right to talk, even if we don’t agree. You lost an important change to be diffrent. You lost a big oportunity to make a point :(— Ana Martins (@AnaC901) 15 августа 2018 г.
It really isn't. If you want diversity you should also want diversity of thought. I'm really disappointed at this decision and caving in to the free speech curbers. As a Portuguese its really disapointing because we have a whole day to celebrate free speech on the 25th of April.— O Beirão 🤠🇵🇹 (@DupIoH) 15 августа 2018 г.
in portugal we support freedom of speech everyone can speak regardless his political ideas— jokka (@Ghostjokka) 15 августа 2018 г.
Madame Le Pen is a French politician that won a very significant part of the French electorate and her different vision, which we do not have in Portugal, is something enriching to open the political horizons of all. I come here to express my strong disappointment.— Marco António (@RealMarcoLeal) 15 августа 2018 г.
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