In an interview with Gript, Elon Musk has warned that Ireland’s hate speech proposals would put Irish people at “the mercy” of politicians and bureaucrats who would define speech they don’t like as hate speech – and pledged to fund Irish legal challenges to the legislation.
He said that “people should be concerned” that the Irish politicians wanted to define hate speech as “whatever they think hate speech is” and that free speech is “the bedrock of democracy”.
“You have to be able to speak your mind within the context of the law: without that you don’t have a real democracy,” he told Gript’s Ben Scallan in an exclusive interview.
The investor and innovator was speaking in relation to the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, which had passed through the Dáil but which has now stalled in the Senate, though Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has insisted it would be progressed this year.
News of Musk’s potential legal challenges was praised by Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor. “We, the people of Ireland, will never tolerate any draconian/corruptible bills being passed into law here. We will not tolerate the attempted removal of our freedom to speak our minds and engage in fair, honest debate… Thank you Elon, as we say in Ireland, fair play!”, he wrote on X.
Growing criticism of the bill (including from the FSU – here), which has been described as “draconian”, point to the absence of a definition of hate in the proposed legislation – and to powers of seizure, with Free Speech Ireland saying the state would have the right to seize personal electronic devices and prescribe prison sentences for those guilty of hate speech or deemed to be in possession of hateful material, even if they had no intent on distributing it.
Self-styled ‘free speech absolutist’ Mr Musk is not averse to using his wealth to do practical good of this kind.
Last year, for instance, the richest person in the world (net value: US$251 billion) mooted the possibility of funding legal bills for any users of X that are “treated unfairly” by employers due to their activity on the platform, and suggested that in such cases he “will go after the boards of directors of the companies too”.
Then, in the first known example so far of X paying legal fees to support users’ free speech, the company announced that its legal team had come to the defence of an Illinois student being threatened with disciplinary action by his university over posts he made on the platform. “We will do whatever it takes to support your right to free speech,” Mr Musk posted at the time.
If you’re reading this, Elon, the FSU has got plenty of ‘live’ cases that need your support if you want to extend X’s legal commitment to service users in the UK.
We see an enormous number of cases of employees being punished for something perfectly lawful that they’ve said on social media, and usually on X – you only have to look through our case files to see that at present, they are massively overestimating what constitutes an employer’s business.