Brazilian Supreme Court Threatens Elon Musk Over Social Media Clash

In a fierce confrontation between Brazil’s leftist administration and the tech billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of the social media platform X has found himself at the center of an intense information war. The dispute erupted when Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, at the behest of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ordered the removal of accounts accused of spreading misinformation. Justice Moraes, who is leading an investigation into purported “digital militias,” has targeted accounts the courts have deemed to disseminate misinformation and hate speech.

Initially, X — like many domestic tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Uber — capitulated to censorship requests. In an unusually bold move, Musk pushed back against what he perceived as state overreach, notifying users of select censorship requests and detailing what sort of data the Brazilian government was requesting.

The move came shortly after the journalist Michael Schellenberger published the Brazilian Twitter Files, a report accusing the government of multiple violations of the constitution, including the censorship of Brazilian citizens. His investigation documented the handover of personal registration data and phone numbers by Google, Facebook, Uber, WhatsApp and Instagram to the Brazilian government without a court order. Schellenberger states that this is a violation of the law and that when X refused to comply, the government sued X’s top lawyer in Brazil. Musk affirmed the accuracy of the findings on X.

Musk’s disapproval of Moraes – whom he accused of violating Brazil’s constitution and of betraying the people of Brazil — ramped up on X after Moraes threatened to shut the platform down. Musk demanded that Moraes “step down’ or be “impeached”, promising to post a list of all the judge’s orders violating Brazilian law. Moraes, in response, made clear he would maintain his orders that X comply with court demands, and that he would fine X the equivalent of $19,740 per day if it didn’t.

Critics of Moraes, including Musk, accuse the judge of eroding free speech in the country after ordering the targeted blocking of accounts belonging to high-profile figures — including many followers of the former president Jair Bolsonaro. Moraes led the Superior Court Tribunal responsible for barring Bolsonaro from running for office in future elections.

Though the legal and financial consequences could cripple the company’s operations in the country, Musk has stood his ground upon free-speech principles. “We will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there. But principles matter more than profit,” said Musk.