NewsBrazil Supreme Court justice opens inquiry into Elon Musk, escalating dispute over...

Brazil Supreme Court justice opens inquiry into Elon Musk, escalating dispute over misinformation

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and Tesla CEO Elon Musk talk during a meeting in Porto Feliz city in Sao Paulo state, Brazil May 20, 2022.

Kenny Oliveira | MCom | via Reuters

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes initiated an investigation into tech magnate Elon Musk on Sunday, the billionaire owner and chief technology officer of social network X. The probe concerns possible obstruction of justice by Musk, who said over the weekend that he would defy the court’s orders to restrict or suspend some popular accounts on its platform.

Moraes also ordered the inclusion of Musk in a broader inquiry into so-called digital militias, a term applied to people accused of spreading misinformation online to attack democratic institutions in Brazil.

The orders follow threats of open defiance posted by Musk to his account on X, where he now has 180.2 million listed followers.

A defiant Musk wrote on Saturday in response to earlier court orders: “We are lifting all restrictions. This judge has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to in Brazil. 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.”

By Sunday, Musk was further provoking the Brazilian Supreme Court, calling for the resignation or impeachment of Moraes, the justice who decided on the orders. Musk also made unsupported claims that the judge had broken the law in Brazil.

On Sunday, the tech billionaire also threatened to publish information that would paint Moraes as a traitor to his own country.

He wrote, “Coming shortly, will publish everything demanded by [Alexandre de Moraes] and how those requests violate Brazilian law. This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil. He should resign or be impeached. Shame [Alexandre de Moraes], shame.”

Moraes has long supported regulations to rein in harmful content and misinformation online in Brazil. He has faced pushback from a range of entities, including tech companies, far-right officials in the country, and former President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he arrives at a hotel to participate in a news conference about the Amazon rainforest and to meet with Elon Musk, according to ministers, in Porto Feliz, Sao Paulo state, Brazil May 20, 2022.

Amanda Perobelli | Reuters

With a population of more than 215 million in 2023, Brazil is the second-most populous country in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. Musk’s vocal opposition to Moraes comes during a municipal election year in the country, with voters scheduled to head to the polls in October.

Like American voters, Brazilian voters are deeply divided over politics. During its most recent transfer of power, the country also experienced destabilizing political violence similar to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

On Jan. 8.

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