After the last number of years of looking across the Irish sea in abject horror at the police state the UK is rapidly becoming, it seems that the reaper has finally come for us too, just as we always knew it would.
On the 29th of March, the Twitter account of the Department of Communication, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE) posted a video announcing the consultation phase for new net regulations.
Ostensibly, this legislation is designed with the old adage ‘Think of the Children!’ in mind. I say ostensibly, because one look at the documentation backing up this phase of drafting reveal its true colours. This is hate speech legislation.
The document outlines three goals of the legislation. Taken from the document, it wants to:
- Protect minors from potentially harmful content,
- Protect the general public from content containing incitement to violence or hatred,
- Protect the general public from content, the distribution of which constitutes a criminal offence under European Union law, including content containing public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, offences concerning child sexual abuse material or concerning racism and xenophobia.
This is Orwellian. The phrase ‘protect’ suggests that the Irish government do not think its population has the ability to process challenging ideas, and so should be protected from them, while the document also groups together “child sexual abuse material” with material “concerning racism and xenophobia.”
To any sane person, these two things are not even in the same ballpark. The first is clearly a crime under both Irish and European law, and uncontroversial to identify and eliminate.
The second however, is something that is ostensibly legal under Irish law, protected by free speech, and incredibly subjective in its definition. What is considered criticism and what is considered xenophobia? If I say ‘Islam is not a religion of peace,’ and list verses and Hadiths online supporting my view, will my post be deemed illegal and taken down?
What’s more, the section even separates it from ‘Incitement to Hatred,’ strongly suggesting the phrase ‘I personally dislike Islam’ will be targeted by this legislation just as would a statement inciting violence such as ‘All [insert group] people should be attacked,’ and would be seen as equally illegal.
In essence, some opinions may be made illegal on the island of Ireland, or at the very least, illegal to be expressed on the internet.
If it is anything like what we’ve seen in the UK or Germany, this is a move meant to gaslight the population into believing that peaceful people who simply express concerns about issues like immigration are equivalent to violent hate groups. More importantly, this legislation could easily be used to discourage critics of the Cult of Leo. This new authoritarian measure could be used to hammer dissidents out of existence online.
Make no mistake, if this becomes law, the likes of GrandTorino, Conservative Comeback Ireland, the Irexit party, etc. may cease to exist online. The likes of The Burkean will cease to exist. All of these non-establishment bodies would be wiped out or at least massively curtailed by this legislation.
So what can you do to try and prevent this? Firstly, I would encourage you to go and fill in the form on the Department’s website. It’s not exactly an easy thing to do, with a lot of the questions being as clear as mud for those of us unfamiliar with the finer details of government legislation, but it’s better than nothing.
Feel free to give them a piece of your mind on Twitter or other social networks. The Department, and Fine Gael by extension need to know that we, the Irish people, do not want restrictions on our freedom of speech, and will fight it to the very end. However, please be civil while doing so. Throwing obscenities at those behind these authoritarian measures will simply work against you.
Lastly, stop voting for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Neither party has your interest at heart, and will keep instituting this kind of legislation until we get them to stop. Write to your local TDs and Councillors saying that unless they stop trying to turn Ireland’s internet into something inspired by Chinese censorship, you will never vote for them again.
If Aontú, Irexit, Renua, or even the National Party are running in your area, they would work as a good protest vote. They may not be great, but at least they aren’t Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. If you can’t even do that, opt for an Independent, Sinn Féin or, god help us, People Before Profit.
Don’t get me wrong, Sinn Féin and People Before Profit are bad, but at least their bizarre schemes and incompetence would shake things up, meaning that if they ever managed to worm their way into government, they wouldn’t be there long.
This legislation, over time, could easily make peaceful dissent in Ireland impossible. If this fact does not scare you, it should. The ability to express our views and our discontent online, while connecting with like-minded people is one of the most important freedoms the modern world provides. Silencing online dissent could easily make protest boil over into real life conflict.
There was once a very wise president of the United States who said something about the suppression of political opposition, something that has stuck in my mind ever since I first heard it: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”