Brazil’s ‘Darth Vader’ Moves Against Musk

Elon Musk
Elon Musk | Image by Chesnot/Getty Images

Elon Musk is in the crosshairs of an investigation by a Supreme Court justice in Brazil after sending out a series of X posts accusing the judge of trying to stifle free speech in the country.

The conflict began when the X corporation’s Global Government Affairs team posted on Saturday that a court in Brazil had forced the social media platform to block certain popular accounts, including those of journalists and sitting members of the nation’s legislature, as reported by independent journalist Michael Shellenberger.

The Brazilian high court’s censorship demands on social media platforms date back to before Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022 and changed its name to X, according to Shellenberger. The X corporation announced it had been forced to comply with the court’s latest order to block certain accounts.

“We do not know the reasons these blocking orders have been issued. We do not know which posts are alleged to violate the law. We are prohibited from saying which court or judge issued the order, or on what grounds. We are prohibited from saying which accounts are impacted. We are threatened with daily fines if we fail to comply,” X said.

Although X was prohibited from identifying the court and the judge that issued the demand, Shellenberger posted on the platform that the ruling came from Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

The Global Government Affairs post claims that the court’s demands violate the country’s constitution.

“We believe that such orders are not in accordance with the Marco Civil da Internet or the Brazilian Federal Constitution, and we challenge the orders legally where possible. The people of Brazil, regardless of their political beliefs, are entitled to freedom of speech, due process, and transparency from their own authorities,” the X team said.

Less than an hour later, Musk himself announced X’s decision to comply had been reversed.

“We are lifting all restrictions,” Musk declared in a post.

“This judge has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to X in Brazil,” Musk said. “As a result, we will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there. But principles matter more than profit.”

That defiance was enough to attract the wrath of de Moraes, who announced on Sunday the launch of a criminal investigation into X and Musk, per the Associated Press.

“The flagrant conduct of obstruction of Brazilian justice, incitement of crime, the public threat of disobedience of court orders, and future lack of cooperation from the platform are facts that disrespect the sovereignty of Brazil,” de Moraes said.

In his recognizable style, Musk used social media to take a jab at the jurist, calling de Moraes “Brazil’s Darth Vader” in a comment to a picture of de Moraes wearing a judge’s flowing black robe resembling a cape.

The standoff between de Moraes and Musk appears to have taken on even higher stakes. On Monday night, Musk posted on X, “We need to get our employees in Brazil to a safe place or otherwise not in a position of responsibility, then we will do a full data dump.”

He immediately followed that post with another claiming that “[X Corp employees] have been told they will be arrested.”

Musk then opined that de Moraes, not Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was really running the country.

“How did de Moraes become the dictator of Brazil? He has Lula on a leash,” he said, posting a laughing tears emoji.

Shellenberger’s investigation also uncovered that the Supreme Court previously targeted supporters of then-president Jair Bolsonaro, who led the nation from 2019 to 2022 before being defeated in disputed elections by Lula da Silva. Shellenberger accused the current president and the mainstream press in Brazil of colluding with de Moraes in a “push toward totalitarianism.”

The political right in Brazil has been a longtime target of de Moraes, with some of its lawmakers and known Bolsonaro supporters having already been subject to police raids and imprisonment, per AP.

A Zero Hedge article reported that evidence had emerged that Twitter had similarly suppressed the speech of former President Donald Trump and his supporters during the same period.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article