X commits to abiding by proposed Irish hate speech laws

This comes despite the platform's owner, Elon Musk, pledging to fund any future legal challenges against the proposed legislation.

This article is about X committing to abiding by Irish hate speech laws. The image shows the X logo on a smartphone. The phone lies on a wooden table.
Image: Mati Mango via X

At a private Oireachtas hearing on Wednesday, February 21, X is understood to have committed to abiding by Irish hate speech laws once they are enacted. 

The Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences Bill 2022 is currently stalled in the Seanad, having passed in the Dáil early last year. If made into law, it will introduce “aggravated” versions of existing crimes in cases where the offences are motivated by hatred against a person’s “protected characteristics”, which include race, colour, nationality, religion, national or ethnic origin, descent, gender (also entailing gender identity), sex characteristics, sexual orientation and disability.

It will apply not only to in-person incidents but also to those that occur online, meaning hate speech on social media platforms like X will be criminalised.

Representatives of the company formerly known as Twitter agreed to meet with the Oireachtas Committee to discuss the legislation, under the condition that the hearing was held in private rather than in public session. Their commitment to abiding by the Irish hate speech law comes despite the platform’s owner, Elon Musk, pledging to fund any future legal challenges against the proposed legislation.

The social media giant additionally addressed its content moderation during the hearing, particularly referencing the Dublin riots in November.

In its opening statement to the committee, X defended its response to the event: “As soon as we became aware of the incident in Parnell Square, we conducted a proactive sweep of the platform to surface content in violation of our terms of service,” it said.

“As a result, we proactively took action on more than 1,230 pieces of content under our rules relating to the riots between 24-28 November.” 

Speaking after the meeting, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne told The Journal that while it was “welcome engagement” with the social media giant, he “doesn’t feel any more confident in X’s commitment to tackling disinformation and some of the worst forms of hate speech”.

Byrne added that the “enormous scaled back content moderation and the increase level of vitriol evident on the platform … leads to a questioning as to whether is truly committed to addressing these online harms”.

Similarly, Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan said the meeting was “incredibly unhelpful”. He described the representatives as “unresponsive” even when committee members shared personal accounts of abuse they have received on the platform.

Also reacting to the hearing, Adam Long, Board Director of the National LGBT Federation (NXF), stated: “We agree with the Committee members who strongly criticised X for failing to address hate, extremism & disinformation on what has become an increasingly toxic platform.

“X must be robustly held to account under incoming hate offences legislation & other regulatory tools like the (EU wide) Digital Services Act.

“Enforcement is key.”

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