Twitter Caves, Will Comply with Censorship Ruling by Brazilian Judge Elon Musk Called a ‘Brutal Dictator’

Elon Musk looks pensive

The social media site Twitter informed Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) Minister Alexandre de Moraes in a letter that it would not challenge a long list of censorship demands issued this month, Reuters reported on Monday.

If confirmed, the move marks a dramatic change in position following Twitter owner Elon Musk’s public condemnations of de Moraes, the STF generally, and the integrity of the 2022 Brazilian presidential election. Musk announced the platform’s intent on April 6 to defy the STF’s orders demanding the censorship of an undisclosed number of accounts belonging to Brazilian individuals, restricting their access within Brazilian territory. The STF ruled that Twitter would face a daily fine of roughly $20,000 per account that the platform failed to censor.

Reuters reported that it had obtained a letter signed by Twitter’s lawyers in which they told de Moraes Twitter would comply with his ruling.

“As already communicated to the federal police, X Brazil informs that all orders issued by this Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court will continue to be fully complied with by X Corp,” the letter reportedly reads. Musk renamed Twitter “X” following his purchase of the site.

In addition to claims that Twitter would defy the order to censor its users, Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” had directly insulted de Moraes, who has appointed himself the head of a campaign against “fake news” and also presides over Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), making him one of Brazil’s most powerful judges — if not the most powerful. 

Minister Alexandre de Moraes (Gustavo Moreno/AP)

Musk first announced that Twitter would defy all of de Moraes’ rulings ordering censorship and challenge them in court. He then targeted de Moraes directly, calling for Brazilians to “throw him out” and referring to the judge as a “dictator.”

During a live broadcast held last week, Musk said de Moraes ordered him to suspend “accounts of sitting members of the parliament and major journalists.”

“This judge has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to X in Brazil,” Musk said on April 7. “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.”

Last week, Musk announced that Twitter would soon publish “everything” that de Moraes requested, but said the platform had to first relocate its Brazilian employees to a safe place before revealing the information as the employees “have been told they will be arrested.” Twitter has published no such information at press time.

Musk described de Moraes as a “brutal dictator” and accused him of rigging Brazil’s highly controversial 2022 presidential election, which resulted in the narrow defeat of then-incumbent conservative President Jair Bolsonaro and the election of socialist convicted felon Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who started his third presidential term in January 2023.

Brazilian ex-president (2003-2011) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives at the Federal Police headquarters where he is due to serve his 12-year prison sentence, in Curitiba, Parana State, Brazil, on April 7, 2018. - Brazil's election frontrunner and controversial leftist icon said Saturday that he will comply with an arrest warrant to start a 12-year sentence for corruption. "I will comply with their warrant," he told a crowd of supporters. (Photo by Heuler Andrey / AFP) (Photo credit should read HEULER ANDREY/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazilian ex-president (2003-2011) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives at the Federal Police headquarters where he is due to serve his 12-year prison sentence, in Curitiba, Parana State, Brazil, on April 7, 2018. – (HEULER ANDREY/AFP via Getty)

During Brazil’s 2022 presidential campaign, de Moraes spearheaded a censorship push against Bolsonaro that favored Lula. The STF minister implemented extreme censorship against pro-Bolsonaro voices and ordered the arrests of conservative politicians, journalists, comedians, and other individuals supportive of the former conservative president.

De Moraes responded to Musk’s stated intent to defy the censorship rulings by ordering local authorities to open an inquiry into Musk for alleged obstruction of justice and incitement to crime. De Moraes accused Musk of launching a “disinformation campaign” against the Brazilian top court.

The STF minister also added Musk to an active inquiry opened in July 2021 to investigate so-called “anti-democratic digital militias” that spread “fake news” in Brazil. De Moraes argued that Musk’s inclusion in the inquiry is due to the “intentional criminal exploitation” of the Twitter social network platform.

De Moraes – whom Brazilians often refer to as “Xandão,” or “Big Alex” – has used the digital militias inquiry to conduct police raids and arrests in the past, including a raid on the residence of former President Bolsonaro in May 2023 that was part of “Operation Venire,” a broad probe into allegations that Bolsonaro falsified vaccination documents to travel to the United States.

Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro (Tercio Teixeira/AFP)

Twitter said on Monday that it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee to provide information over the STF’s censorship orders.

“To comply with its obligations under U.S. law, X Corp. has responded to the Committee,” the platform stated.

Reuters stated that Twitter’s lawyers informed de Moraes that the platform complied with the committee’s “request for it to share confidential court documents and would keep judicial officials posted regarding any updates it might get from X Corp on the matter.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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