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Musk to fund legal challenges to Irish hate speech bill

By AFP

January 24, 2024 06:45 PM


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Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has he will fund legal challenges to pending Irish hate speech legislation he says would limit freedom of expression, in an interview published Wednesday.

In an online interview with Irish news site Gript, Musk said the default position of his social media giant X, formerly Twitter, was to challenge any laws it believes would infringe on people's ability to "say what they want to say".

"We'll make sure that if there is an attempt to suppress the voice of the Irish people that we do our absolute best to defend the people of Ireland and their ability to speak their mind," said Musk.

"And we will also fund the legal fees of Irish citizens that want to challenge the bill as well," he added.

The upcoming Irish legislation, which is expected to be voted on in parliament in the coming weeks, includes curbs on hate speech including inflammatory content on social media, as well as hate crime.

According to the government the bill would replace outdated existing laws that are ill-equipped to tackle hate speech on social media.

It would criminalise "incitement to violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of certain characteristics" such as race, gender, and religion.

It also proposes a new offence based on a person communicating material to the public that is "likely to incite violence or hatred".

Since Musk's $44-billion takeover of X in October 2022 the tech tycoon has had to fend off accusations of a proliferation of hate speech on the platform.

The firm, whose European headquarters are in Dublin, was forced to defend its response to rioting in the Irish capital last November. Critics say the violence was in part fuelled by far-right users of the platform.

In the wake of the unrest, initially sparked by a stabbing outside a primary school, Irish lawmakers including prime minister Leo Varadkar called for big tech companies to be more proactive in clamping down on far-right activity online.

"We need laws to be able to go after them individually... they're to blame and we're going to get them," said Varadkar, referring to Irish social media accounts with large followings and racist messages.

After the rioting Musk wrote on X: "Ironically, the Irish PM hates the Irish people.

"Suppression of the Irish people is the real crime," he added.


AFP


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