Latest: Web Summit withdraw Le Pen invitation saying it is 'disrespectful' to Portugal and attendees

Latest: Web Summit withdraw Le Pen invitation saying it is 'disrespectful' to Portugal and attendees
Far-right politician Marine Le Pen

Latest: Paddy Cosgrave has rescinded the invitation to Marine Le Pen to be a guest at this year's Web Summit in Lisbon Portugal.

He said that Web Summit made the decision as her presense is "disrespectful in particular to our host country" and to the attendees from around the world.

Mr Cosgrave had previously defended his decision to invite the French far-right leader saying that despite not agreeing with here "wrongheaded" views, "banning or attempting to ignore these views is unlikely to help address the roots of the rise in support for these views across parts of Europe in particular."

In a tweet thread, he said that it is now clear that the correct thing to do is to withdraw the invitation.

He said: "Based on advice we have received and the large reaction online overnight, her presence is disrespectful in particular to our host country. It is also disrespectful to some of the many tens of thousands of attendees who join us from around the world.

"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.

"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.

"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."

Paddy Cosgrave defends decision to invite far-right leader Marine Le Pen to 2018 Web Summit

Earlier: Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave has defended the decision to invite French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to the annual tech conference.

The president of the French National Rally party is due to appear at the event in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon held between November 5-8.

In a Web Summit post, Mr Cosgrave said that even though he believes her views are "wrongheaded", banning or "attempting to ignore these views which have been fanned in our view by technology, does little to furthering understanding."

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave
Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave

Mr Cosgrave emphasised the need for debate in a time where "detestable politicians, are being voted into power by their respective electorates."

He said: "There’s a palpable need in my view for debate and discussion on this phenomenon, its causes and the role technology is playing.

"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."

In the 2017 French presidential election, Ms Le Pen gained more than 33% of the popular vote when she faced off against current president Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Cosgrave said that despite over one-third of French people voting for the far-right politician it does not, in his opinion, "legitimise her views".

He added: "Nor does the rise into power of politicians of a similar hue in Italy, Austria, Hungary and elsewhere legitimise her reprehensible views."

He said that speakers are not brought to the Web Summit to be given a free platform to air their ideas and views, but would instead be "thoroughly challenged" and their views will be "openly" contested by a panel.

"Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, these speakers are not invited to deliver an uncontested address, but are instead invited to have their views thoroughly challenged and scrutinised by a professional journalist.

"Moreover, they sit on a panel, surrounded by authoritative and alternative voices who will openly contest the extreme viewpoints of these speakers. This has always been the case and will be the case with Marine Le Pen."

The 36-year-old entrepreneur said that it would have been very simple for Web Summit to rescind the invitation but have chosen not to because "ignoring these views...does little to further understanding. "

Defending freedom of speech and expression, he said: "More importantly perhaps, banning or attempting to ignore these views is unlikely to help address the roots of the rise in support for these views across parts of Europe in particular.

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental right within the European Union and a basic cornerstone of any democratic society."

However, Mr Cosgrave said that should the Portuguese government ask to cancel the invitation they would respect the decision of the host country.

He said: "Ultimately the interest of our hosts, Portugal, and the interest of the people of Portugal, should be placed far above those of Web Summit."

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