Inquiry Has Been Initiated Against Elon Musk By The Brazilian Supreme Court, Intensifying Conflict Over Misinformation

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes started looking into Elon Musk, the rich guy who runs the social network X. Moraes is checking if Musk did something wrong by refusing to follow the court’s orders to stop or suspend some popular accounts on his platform.

Moraes also said Musk is part of a bigger investigation into “digital militias,” which are people who spread lies online to hurt Brazil’s democratic institutions.

This all started when Musk said he wouldn’t obey the court’s rules on X, where he has lots of followers.

Musk got even bolder by saying he was going against the court’s orders and might have to close down his office in Brazil. He said he’s doing it because he thinks it’s more important to stick to his beliefs than to make money.

Concerns arise over free speech as Musk’s track record on moderation fluctuates. (Credits: Britannica)

Then, Musk started attacking the Brazilian Supreme Court and said the judge who made the orders should quit or get kicked out. He even said the judge broke the law in Brazil.

Musk also threatened to share information that could make the judge look bad.

Moraes has been trying to make rules to stop harmful stuff and lies online in Brazil for a while. But some tech companies, right-wing officials, and a former president haven’t liked what he’s been doing.

With over 215 million people in 2023, Brazil ranks as the second most populated country in the Western Hemisphere, just after the United States. Musk’s strong opposition to Moraes coincides with a year of local elections in Brazil, with voters set to cast their ballots in October.

Similar to the political divide seen in the United States, Brazilian politics are deeply polarized. In its recent transition of power, the country faced political violence reminiscent of the Capitol attack in January 2021.

On January 8, 2023, supporters of Bolsonaro, Brazil’s ousted far-right former president, protested what they believed to be a “stolen” election.

They stormed and damaged government buildings, calling for military intervention to remove the elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from office. Currently, Bolsonaro himself is being investigated for allegedly plotting a coup in his own country.

Tesla and SpaceX under Musk implemented strict speech rules, sparking controversy.

Musk, who serves as the Chief Technology Officer and owner of X, as well as the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, met with Bolsonaro in May 2022, reportedly to discuss the use of SpaceX’s satellite internet services in rural schools in the Amazon.

SpaceX received approval to launch its satellite internet service, Starlink, in Brazil during Bolsonaro’s presidency, and it’s now widely used across the country.

During their meeting, Bolsonaro praised Musk’s plans for X as a “ray of hope.”

Social media platforms like X are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny globally, including in Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, and Turkey.

According to court documents, Musk and his company will face fines of 100,000 reais (about US$20,000) per day for each account that X reinstates against the orders of Brazil’s Supreme Court. Those involved will also be held accountable in Brazil for defying the court’s orders.

In his ruling, Justice Moraes emphasized that social networks are not above the law and criticized X for protecting those who promote criminal activities against Brazil’s democracy.

He argued that X’s actions not only abuse economic power by unlawfully influencing public opinion but also encourage criminal behavior by the digital militias under investigation.

Speech Perspective Varies: Musk

Under Musk’s leadership, X has faced fines in Australia for not following e-safety rules.

X’s actions draw scrutiny, accused of yielding to government pressure in content removal.

The European Union is also looking into X for potentially breaking their new laws aimed at holding tech companies responsible for harmful content like terrorism incitement or hate speech.

Some worry that these rules, while meant to protect users, could be abused by governments to silence activists or others they disagree with.

Musk says he believes strongly in free speech, but his actions don’t always match that. When he took control of X, he made it less strict about what could be posted, which some say could put users at risk.

For instance, he let former President Trump back on X after he was banned for life following the Capitol attack in 2021.

But at his companies like Tesla and SpaceX, Musk has strict rules limiting what employees and customers can say. Some SpaceX workers even claim they were fired for criticizing Musk publicly.

X also faced criticism for removing content related to farmers’ protests in India, following requests from the Indian government.

X hasn’t commented on these issues yet.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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