Ireland’s Prime Minister has accused US billionaire and owner of Twitter, now X, Elon Musk of “showboating” with his threats to challenge the country’s coming anti-hate-speech laws in court.
Progressive Irish leader Leo Varadkar’s comments are the latest in an intensifying feud between Musk and the European Union Member State, with the X owner showing an increasing interest in the country’s politics in recent months.
Speaking on August 27, Varadkar downplayed the possibility that Ireland’s controversial hate-speech bill could be shot down by a Musk lawsuit, alleging that the mechanism for such a challenge remains unclear.
When is the next election in Ireland?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2023
“Anyone can challenge a law, when it is a law, but they have to have locus standi [the right to bring an action to court],” he told a Sunday newspaper in the country, arguing that the tech boss could not “just challenge a law in the courts”.
“I suspect he doesn’t know what he means and is just showboating,” Varadkar added, arguing that such a challenge could only come if Musk or one of his companies were prosecuted under the new rules.
Varadkar’s attempt at mocking Musk comes as the American puts increasing pressure on Ireland’s anti-freedom of expression political establishment.
Having previously described the Irish Government as presiding over a “massive attack on freedom of speech” with the hate-speech bill, Musk has since engaged online with people and organisations campaigning to have the legislation dropped.
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) August 25, 2023
Musk’s most recent intervention came in the form of a tweet on August 26, asking “netizens” when the next election in Ireland was, under a video of a government minister being pressured on EU-level censorship rules.
Speaking to Brussels Signal, Free Speech Ireland spokesperson Sarah Hardiman welcomed Musk’s increased interest in the issue, arguing that the legislation in Ireland was likely to impact social-media users worldwide.
Acknowledging that the bill will “certainly impinge on the rights of Irish citizens in their ability to speak freely”, Hardiman noted the fact that, as so many tech firms have their EU headquarters in Ireland, they will also probably be affected by the clampdown.
“It is clear why Elon Musk is interested in Irish legislation,” she said, adding that the new rules could end up affecting “anyone with an X or social media account”.
“We are glad to see Elon Musk lend his voice to this issue,” Hardiman said.
Elon Musk’s Twitter, now X, has been accused of limiting the visibility of a Twitter account, known as “shadow banning”, belonging to Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang. https://t.co/zt73YaRohK
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) August 22, 2023