X, formerly Twitter, promises to abide by Irish hate speech laws

Owner Elon Musk previously pledged to fund legal challenges to the proposed law, which is yet to be passed

The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has promised an Oireachtas committee that it will abide by the proposed new hate speech Bill — despite a promise by its owner Elon Musk to fund legal challenges to the legislation.

Representatives from X attended the Oireachtas media committee on Wednesday but insisted that the meeting be in private, having previously refused to attend public sessions.

They told the committee members that the platform — which has been criticised for facilitating hate speech and incitement to hatred — would abide by any provisions of the proposed legislation.

Earlier this year, X owner Elon Musk said his company, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, would fund legal challenges to the forthcoming hate speech laws.


In an interview with Gript, Mr Musk said X’s default position is that it will challenge any laws it believes would infringe upon someone’s ability to “say what they want to say”.

“And we will also fund the legal fees of Irish citizens that want to challenge the Bill as well,” said Mr Musk. “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 hate crime/hate speech legislation stalled in the Seanad last summer, amid concerns about its scope and impact on freedom of speech. Strong opposition to the Bill exists across the political spectrum, but the Government has said it intends to push it through the Oireachtas.

When, though, is not clear. The Bill was initially due to return to the Seanad last autumn but did not appear. Then Ministers said it would be passed by the end of the year. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee then said it would return for debate “early in the year”. The Department of Justice has been unable to give a date for the Bill’s return, despite repeated requests.

The X representatives defended the platform’s response to the Dublin riots in November, for which it had been criticised by Ms McEntee.

In an opening statement supplied to the committee, the company said that as soon as it became aware of the stabbing attack in Dublin city centre it began looking for related content which violated its rules.

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It said it took action on more than 1,230 pieces of content relating to the riots between November 24th to 28th.

However, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said he was unimpressed with some aspects of the X presentations today.

“While the engagement was welcome, I am not convinced on foot of it that X is seriously committed to tackling disinformation nor some of the worst forms of hate speech on the site,” he said.

“I was alarmed when they confirmed to me that the number of human content moderators globally has dropped from 5,500 in November 2022 prior to the Musk takeover to 2,500 now. Also admitting that the X algorithm is more driven by likes and shares rather than relying on trusted news sources is honest but frankly alarming and not helping in combating disinformation,” Mr Byrne added.

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Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times