Ireland is closer to being the latest country to pass legislation on so-called “hate speech.”
The Lower House (Dáil Éireann) passed the Criminal Justice Bill 2022 (the Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offenses), which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
The bill makes it a crime to “incite violence or hatred against a person, condonation, denial or gross trivialization of genocide, and preparing or possessing material likely to incite violence or hatred against persons on account of their protected characteristics.”
Protected characteristics include race, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and disability.
The bill has a controversial provision that makes it an offense to “possess material that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or group.”
We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.
It adds that someone violates the law if they “displays, publishes, distributes, disseminates, shows or plays the material,” or “makes the material available in any other way including the use of an information system” like social media.
Possessing such material carries a two-year prison sentence. More concerning is that the burden of proof lies on the person accused (they have to prove that their intention was not to spread hate), rather than the age-old idea of the burden being on the prosecution to prove their case. The government’s proposal is the opposite of this: guilty until proven innocent.
The House voted against an amendment to remove the part of the bill that makes it an offense to possess offensive material.
Responding to news of the bill, Elon Musk tweeted: “This is a massive attack against freedom of speech.”
The bill is headed for the upper house (Seanad Éireann), which will be the seventh stage of 11 before it becomes law.