Elon Musk calls for Brazil Supreme Court judge’s resignation over X censorship row

Stand-off between Musk and Brazilian judge escalates after he opens inquiry into Tesla boss

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 08 April 2024 08:01 BST
Related: Twitter to X: Why Elon Musk rebranded the social networking platform

Billionaire Elon Musk has called for either resignation or impeachment of Brazil's Supreme Court justice for "censorship" of X accounts suspected of spreading disinformation.

The stand-off between the Tesla boss and Alexandre de Moraes escalated on Sunday after the judge opened an inquiry into Mr Musk.

Mr Musk – the owner of X and a self-declared free speech absolutist – challenged a decision by Justice Moraes ordering the blocking of certain accounts, stating that he would lift all the restrictions because they were unconstitutional.

The social media platform first posted about the order to block on Saturday but Mr Musk, X, or Brazilian authorities disclosed which social media accounts would be impacted.

Justice Moraes is investigating "digital militias" that have been accused of spreading fake news and hate messages during the government of former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and is also leading an investigation into an alleged coup attempt by the politician.

Mr Musk, in an X post on Saturday evening, accused Mr Moraes of "brazenly and repeatedly" betraying the constitution and people of Brazil. "He should resign or be impeached," Mr Musk said.

"Shame, Alexandre de Moraes. Shame," he added.

"This judge has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to X in Brazil," he said in a post. "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."

Mr Musk on Sunday claimed the order to block accounts were "the most draconian demands of any country on Earth" as he urged people in Brazil to use VPN to access their accounts.

The billionaire has pledged to legally challenge the order blocking X accounts where possible.

Justice Moraes responded on Sunday by adding Mr Musk to the investigation he is leading into fake news on social media, and opening an inquiry into what he called an obstruction of justice.

Mr Musk has been accused of “criminal instrumentalization of X”, according to AFP.

In his decision, the justice said: "X shall refrain from disobeying any court order already issued, including performing any profile reactivation that has been blocked by this Supreme Court."

If X fails to comply with the order to block certain accounts the company will be fined 100,000 reais (£15,653) per day, the judge said in a statement released to media.

Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's leftist government expressed support for the justice, with solicitor general Jorge Messias criticising Mr Musk and calling for the regulation of social media networks to prevent foreign platforms from violating Brazilian laws.

"We cannot live in a society in which billionaires domiciled abroad have control of social networks and put themselves in a position to violate the rule of law, failing to comply with court orders and threatening our authorities," justice de Messias said in a post on X.

Last year, justice Moraes also ordered an investigation into executives at social messaging platform Telegram and Alphabet’s Google, who were in charge of a campaign criticizing a proposed internet regulation bill.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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