New Irish hate speech laws could ‘censor the entire internet’

New hate speech laws for Ireland potentially attempt to “censor the entire internet”, according to journalist and international best selling author Michael Shellenberger, who has criticised the proposed reach of the laws. Mr Shellenberger says there is no ‘hate crisis in Ireland’ and that the law is an attempt to ‘stifle open conversation and discourse among the Irish people’:

“A sweeping ban on undefined “hate” gives authorities the power to determine which viewpoints are acceptable to voice. World history warns us that such power can be easily abused”.

Mr Shellenberger has joined forces with the international community to raise the alarm over Ireland's proposed "hate speech" bill, which is currently under consideration by the Irish parliament.

The public in Ireland is similarly concerned according to recent polling commissioned by ADF International, which reveals that one in four people are worried about the erosion of free speech in their country and who are already feeling restricted in expressing their views in social settings. Ninety per cent of people surveyed stated that free speech is “very important”.

The proposed legislation would criminalise the possession of materials intended for distribution that could incite "hatred," with penalties reaching up to five years in prison. The bill also extends its reach to social media platforms with headquarters in Ireland, like X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. Executives and directors of these companies could be held accountable if their platforms are found to be disseminating undefined "hate speech."

"The world is watching Ireland," said Shellenberger. "This bill would have a global impact on online discourse, given Ireland's role as a hub for international social media companies."

The bill lacks a clear definition of ‘hate’, which experts are warning could potentially lead to the criminal prosecution of a wide range of expressions or views deemed unfavourable by authorities.

Lorcan Price, Irish Barrister and Legal Counsel for ADF International said:

“The proposed “hate speech” legislation would be one of the worst examples of censorship in the modern West. The bill purports to stamp out ‘hate speech,’ but fails to define what ‘hate’” is – allowing authorities to censor any speech the state opposes.

That’s why voices from around the world are speaking up for the right to debate and discuss ideas – here in Ireland, and everywhere”.

Here in Australia, Canadian activist Chris Elston, known online as “Billboard Chris”, is challenging attempts by the Australian government to censor his public comments about gender ideology on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).

His tweets were ordered to be removed at the direction of the eSafety Commissioner, an unelected government bureaucrat, pursuant to powers granted under the Online Safety Act 2021.

HRLA is representing Mr Elston as he challenges the removal notice issued by the Commissioner.

Similarly HRLA client Lyle Shelton is being forced to defend himself against claims of vilification because of his public comments criticising drag queen story hour for children at public libraries. 

HRLA continues to represent people like Lyle Shelton and Chris Elston to defend themselves against increasing government censorship and the weaponisation of vilification laws to silence opponents' views.