X owner Elon Musk has vowed to fund legal challenges to Ireland’s proposed hate speech legislation calling the controversial bill “a massive attack on freedom of expression.”
The bill aims to tackle both incitement to hatred and hate speech and is being touted by the Irish government as a way to update existing laws in the age of the internet. Ireland’s current hate speech laws date back to 1989 but critics say the law would stifle free speech.
Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutionist,” said 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,” Musk told Irish media outlet Gript.
“We will also fund the legal fees of Irish citizens who want to challenge the bill, so 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.”
The legislation, the Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences bill, has already passed through the Dáil, Ireland’s lower chamber, but it has stalled in the Senate, the upper chamber. However, Helen McEntee, the Irish minister for justice, has insisted it would be progressed this year.
The bill intends to criminalize communication or behavior that “incites violence or hatred against a group or individual because they are associated with a protected characteristic.”
Protected characteristics listed in the bill include national or ethnic origin, as well as “transgender and a gender other than those of male and female.”
According to many users, the legislation was kept intentionally vague and suggests people could be jailed for having certain memes saved to their phones or for merely being found in possession of books or videos deemed politically offensive.
Nate Hochman, a staff writer for National Review, said the bill represents, “arguably the most radical legislation of its kind we’ve seen in the West.”
Musk said that X has standing in Ireland given its European headquarters is located in Dublin. Musk’s group of investors bought Twitter for $44 billion in 2022 and took the company private.
“We have a big office in Ireland, a big presence in Ireland so we obviously have standing,” the Tesla and Space X CEO said.
“This thing we should be concerned about is if the Irish Parliament passes a bill that defines hate speech as whatever they think hate speech is, people should be extremely concerned about that,” Musk said.
“You’re just at the mercy of the ruling party and whatever bureaucrats they put in place and they can just define something that really is not hate speech as hate speech just because they don’t like it.
News of Musk’s potential legal challenges was praised and supported by Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor.
“Elon your consistent support on this matter has been truly appreciated and respected!” McGregor wrote on X.
“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.
“A silly and weak attempt to silence opposition opinion is what this is and WE SAY NO! We will fight this all the way if it is attempted to be pushed forward. We will fight it and we will win. Thank you Elon, as we say in Ireland, fair play!”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.