lon Musk speaks at the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, June 16, 2023. (Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters )
January 23, 2024
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Elon Musk said Tuesday that he will challenge Ireland’s proposed hate-speech law in court and fund the legal fees of any Irish citizens who are prosecuted under the law if it’s enacted.
“Our default approach is to challenge any legislation that infringes upon the people’s ability to say what they want to say,” Musk said during an X Spaces session hosted by the Irish media platform Gript. The Tesla and SpaceX founder confirmed that he has legal standing in Ireland to challenge the hate-speech bill because his social-media company, X, has its main European headquarters based in Ireland.
“We’ll also fund the legal fees of Irish citizens that want to challenge the bill as well,” he continued. “We’ll make sure that if there’s 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.”
The legislation in question, formally called the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, aims to repeal the current Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 by criminalizing actions or expressions that could incite hatred. The proposed text, however, doesn’t explicitly define “hatred,” but rather describes the offense in a circular manner.
“‘Hatred’ means hatred against a person or a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their protected characteristics or any one of those characteristics,” the text reads.
If enacted, the bill would create new laws to target hate crimes, expand Ireland’s protected characteristics to include gender and disability, and make it an offense to deny or trivialize genocide.
“It’s so extreme that you could be put in prison for putting the wrong meme on your phone, and that’s insane,” Musk said.
“Free speech is the bedrock of democracy,” he added. “If you lack free speech, it’s impossible to have a proper democratic process because people are not aware of the facts or they may be misled. People have to be able to speak their mind within the context of the law. Without that, you don’t have a real democracy.”
Musk then likened the hate-speech statute to a concept straight out of a “George Orwell novel,” telling listeners they should be concerned about the Irish government’s motivations in trying to pass the legislation.
“If the government is given broad powers to define what hate speech is, they can easily define things that support the ruling party,” said the self-described free-speech absolutist. “It is a way for whoever’s in charge to cement their power.”
DAVID ZIMMERMANN is a news writer for National Review. Originally from New Jersey, he is a graduate of Grove City College and currently writes from Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in the Washington Examiner, the Western Journal, Upward News, and the College Fix. @dezward01