Home Brazil to investigate Elon Musk in heated disinformation row

Brazil to investigate Elon Musk in heated disinformation row


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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is to be investigated by a Brazilian Supreme Court justice over reports of disseminating fake news and alleged obstruction.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes wrote in his decision that the chief executive of X (formerly known as Twitter) began waging a public “disinformation campaign” regarding the actions of the Brazil Supreme Court. Musk reportedly continued to disagree with the verdict the following day, posting on social media that the company would cease complying with the court’s orders to block certain accounts.

Citing de Moraes, AP reported that the judge said: “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.”

Brazilian authorities have intensified their efforts to curb the spread of what they deem misinformation and hate speech on social media. X had at first complied with this directive. However, in a Saturday post, the company reiterated that Brazilians, “regardless of their political beliefs, should enjoy freedom of speech.”

The crackdown on false information comes in the wake of riots that occurred in January in 2023, when thousands of supporters of Brazil’s right-wing former President, Jair Bolsonaro, stormed government buildings in Brasília.

The judge stated in a media release that if X does not comply with the order to block specific accounts, the company will incur a daily fine of 100,000 reais ($19,740).

Solicitor General Jorge Messias supported the move, writing on X: “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.”

Why Elon Musk is being probed over ‘fake news’ by Brazil

In a Sunday (April 7) post on X, Musk accused Justice de Moraes of having “brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil,” arguing that he “should resign or be impeached.”

Musk then told users they “can still access the X platform, download a virtual private network (VPN) app.”

On Saturday, Musk stated that X would remove all restrictions, citing that the judge “has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to X in Brazil.” Consequently, he mentioned, the company “is likely to lose all its revenue in Brazil and may have to close our office there.”

Last year, de Moraes initiated an investigation into executives from the social messaging platform Telegram and Alphabet’s Google, who led a campaign against a proposed internet regulation bill.

In December, the social media platform failed in its legal attempt to overturn a California law aimed at regulating harmful content on social media platforms.

Featured image: Canva / Elon Musk / The Royal Society

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Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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