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Country’s Proposed ‘Hate Speech’ Law Targets Memes, Online Speech With Possible Prison Time

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is pushing for the country to enact stringent and vague hate speech legislation in the wake of anti-immigrant riots following a serial stabbing incident on Thursday.

The anti-immigrant riots broke out in response to a suspected Algerian immigrant allegedly stabbing three children and two adults outside of a Dublin school, according to Reuters. Varadkar advocated to quickly pass restrictive speech legislation after the riots, which would make it illegal to foster “hatred,” according to the current text of the bill.

“We’ll modernize our laws against incitement to hatred and hatred in general – and that is more required than ever was the case before,” Varadkar stated on Friday. “I think it’s now very obvious to anyone who might have doubted it that our incitement to hatred legislation is just not up to date…we need that legislation through, we need it through within a matter of weeks.”

The legislation makes it illegal to be a person that “prepares or possesses” content that could “incite violence or hatred … or being reckless as to whether such violence or hatred is thereby incited,” according to its text. This could lead to fines and prison sentences of up to two years.

Critics argue that there is a lack of clarity in what qualifies as “hate speech” in the law, according to The Messenger. The law may lead to content such as social media posts and even memes being unlawful and could result in penalties up to five of imprisonment, they assert.

“All reasonable people are against inciting hatred, of course,” National University of Ireland Independent Senator Rónán Mullen wrote in June in Irish Examiner. “But the combination of vagueness in the legislation and the new ‘cancel culture’ out to silence certain points of view unlocks the potential of … censorship.”

The current bill text does not define “hatred,” instead stating, “‘Hatred’ means hatred against a person or a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their protected characteristics or any one of those characteristics.”

“It’s not just the [social medial] platforms that have responsibility here and they do,” Varadkar added. “There’s also the individuals who post messages and images online that stir up hatred and violence and we need to be able to use laws to go after them individually as well.”

Police arrested 34 people on the night of the riots, with hundreds of individuals ransacking shops and setting vehicles on fire, according to PBS.

Varadkar’s press office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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