Musk burns bridges in Brazil after calling for senior judge to be impeached

Tycoon threatens to ignore court order banning far-right accounts on X

In this weekend's episode of "Billionaires Behaving Boldly," X supremo Elon Musk locked horns with Brazil's legal luminaries over what constitutes free speech and what's far-right pablum.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes launched an inquiry into Musk's threats to lift restrictions on various Brazilian accounts banned by a court order, suggesting that he was running a disinformation campaign against the judiciary.

The profiles are thought to be linked to far-right movements that egged on supporters of former president Jair Bolsanaro who stormed the country's Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace on January 8 last year.

X's Government Affairs team said it was not allowed to say which accounts the block applied to and that it "does not know the reasons these blocking orders have been issued."

De Moraes has something of a reputation as a defender of democracy in some circles as he pushed back against unsubstantiated claims about the integrity of the electoral system spread by Bolsanaro during the 2022 presidential election. He also handed down lengthy sentences to demonstrators whom he accused of attempting a coup.

However, he is also believed by others to be Censor in Chief and running a "judicial dictatorship," and has been linked to corruption allegations. It all depends where you fall on the political spectrum.

If X fails to comply with the order, it will be fined 100,000 reais ($19,774) a day. However, yesterday Musk said X would "publish everything" demanded by de Moraes and "how those requests violate Brazilian law." He also called for the judge to "resign or be impeached" for "brazenly and repeatedly" betraying "the constitution and people of Brazil."

In response, Brazil's attorney-general, Jorge Messias, demanded "urgent regulation" of social media. "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," he said.

Bruna Santos, global campaigns manager at non-profit Digital Action, told the BBC: "Musk acted to provoke the Brazilian judiciary. I think there is a real chance that X might get blocked." ®

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