C: Houses of the Oireachtas/ Shawn Pogatchnik; Ministério Das Comunicações / Wikipedia; CC BY 2.0

Musk says his X platform will file legal action against Irish hate speech bill

CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, who acquired X (formerly Twitter) last year, has said that his corporation will file legal action to stop hate speech laws in Ireland and elsewhere which critics say are being used to clamp down on free speech.

In a tweeted response to an article by Ben Scallan on a perceived “crackdown on Free Speech” Musk said “X will be filing legal action to stop this. Can’t wait for discovery to start!”.

The Irish hate speech bill has become a matter of significant controversy as concerns regarding the use of such legislation to prevent honest opinion being suppressed and even criminalised have grown.

The legislation passed the Dáil where only a handful of TDs spoke or voted against the bill, including Peadar Tóibín on Aontú who described the bill as “a threat to the democratic function of our society in the long term” and Independent TD Carol Nolan who said it amounted to a “gagging order” and said it was her “firm view that this Bill is nothing but the product of endless insider lobbying by NGO’s and interest groups who are determined to create a chilling effect around any potential threat to the official narrative on a range of socially contentious issues.”

The legislation has not yet been approved by the Seanad, where strong criticisms were made by several senators highlighting some of the most draconian aspects of the bill including the powers given to police to raid homes and seize devices, with potential penalties of a year in prison and a €5,000 fine for refusal to give passwords for said devices to the authorities.

Writing about the bill on Public, Gript reporter Ben Scallan said that the “hype about hate” was a “pretext for the effort by Irish politicians to pass strict new ‘hate speech’ law, which would make it a criminal offence to possess allegedly ‘hateful material’ — on paper or digitally — on your person or in your home.”

He pointed out that “for police to classify something as a hate offence, which is either a crime or  “incident,” which is a hate act that is not criminalized, no actual proof or evidence is required beyond somebody simply calling it that. The police themselves admit that the threshold for perception required for this is “very low.” In fact, you don’t even have to be the victim of the alleged crime to report it. A random bystander who has nothing to do with the event can say, “I think it was based on prejudice,” and it will be categorized as such. Someone could report what was an obvious joke between laughing friends as a “hate incident” to the police.”

Sharing the piece, founder of Public, Michael Shellenberger said: “Politicians & George Soros-funded NGOs say “hate incidents” are rising, but they’re not. The data show the opposite: higher-than-ever and rising levels of tolerance of minorities. The reason they’re spreading hate misinformation is to justify a draconian crackdown on free speech.”

In response, Elon Musk tweeted that X would be “filing legal action to stop this.”

In common with other opponents of the legislation, Gript has said it will “deliberately breach the hate speech law should it be passed”.

“This is why here at Gript, we will not only ignore the existence of this law – we will deliberately and consciously disobey it, specifically on the topic of gender identity,” editor John McGuirk wrote.

“It is for the Government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anything this publication writes or publishes is an incitement to hatred: We do not believe that it is, and we believe that the Government will struggle to find a single witness who admits to hating anybody because they read an article in an online publication.”

“We also, we believe, have a solemn duty to do so. We are a media organisation, with protected speech to a higher degree than that of the average citizen. We have a duty to put ourselves in the firing line, deliberately.”

On September 16th, a Free Speech event – Ireland Uncensored – will be held in the RDS in Dublin to discuss the government’s hate speech bill and other threats to free speech.

Organised by Free Speech Ireland and Gript, speakers include broadcaster Niall Boylan, author and campaigner Michael Shellenberger, Senator Sharon Keogan, Journalist and former Economist European Editor Helen Joyce, Commentator Kevin Sharkey, and others.

“With the government’s recently published “Hate Speech” Bill proving to be the most controversial piece of legislation in recent Irish history, many are deeply concerned over the state of free speech and encroaching censorship in our country,” Free Speech Ireland said in a statement about the conference.

“In response to this legislation, Free Speech Ireland and Gript invite all to attend a conference and seminar featuring a variety of expert speakers who will explain why this censorship is happening, where it is coming from, and what we can do to defeat it.”

The group added: “Freedom of Speech is a human right fundamental to the functioning of any true democracy, all attempts to take this right away must be emphatically rejected.”


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