Musk threatens to reveal information on Brazilian judge that would paint him as a traitor

Elon Musk has threatened to leak damaging evidence he believes will prove one of Brazil’s top judges has betrayed the country, escalating a showdown over the censorship of social media in the country.

The owner of X now finds himself squarely in the middle of a political struggle in Latin America’s largest economy, one that pits the forces of former President Jair Bolsonaro against the Lula da Silva government in Brasilia that the ex-president allegedly sought to bring down.

Bolsonaro is accused of hatching a plan in November 2022 to overturn his election defeat—plans that included the arrest of de Moraes himself.

Weeks later, Bolsonaro supporters stormed the country’s capital of Brasilia, flooding the congress, presidential palace and supreme court in a Jan. 6-style uprising that quickly failed. 

Testimony from senior military commanders published last month implicated Bolsonaro, a Donald Trump-style populist, in a coup attempt.

One of the leading figures in this ongoing conflict has been Alexandre de Moraes. The president of the Superior Electoral Court and a supreme court justice has sought to clamp down on claims spread online by supporters of Bolsonaro that the October 2022 election was unjustly stolen from him. 

In his latest move, de Moraes has opened an inquiry into X after Musk said he would no longer follow an order from the judge to block certain accounts thought to be linked to the pro-Bolosnaro push to overturn the election.

The spat comes after documents published by “Twitter Files” journalist Michael Shellenberger alleged de Moraes sought to weaponize the platform’s content moderation policies against supporters of Bolsonaro, still president at the time.

Following the publication of the documents—and da Moraes’s order to block certain accounts—Musk called de Moraes “Brazil’s Darth Vader” on Sunday and said X will publish everything demanded by de Moraes and explicitly detail how those requests violate Brazilian law. 

“This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil,” Musk posted on Sunday. “He should resign or be impeached.”

This isn’t the first time Musk has had to grapple with requests from governments.

He was criticized last year for bowing to requests by the Turkish government to censor content on his platform ahead of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s re-election victory. 

‘Principles over profit’ or ‘world’s biggest hypocrite’

This time, however, Musk has refused to comply with the demands by de Moraes and warned X would probably have to forfeit all revenue in Brazil and shut down its local operations. 

“Principles matter more than profit,” he posted.  

Musk has portrayed himself as a bulwark against the collapse of western civilization brought on by people like Moraes.

He argues Americans’ very lives are at risk from diversity hiring and frets about declining birth rates and female depression from hormonal birth control.

He also spreads fear of a “deep socialist state” led by Democrats cementing their control by gifting illegal immigrants a vote. 

Most of all, he portrays himself as a crusader for free speech. When the figurehead of Germany’s extreme right had to answer in court for deliberately using a forbidden Nazi slogan, he baited Musk into engaging with him online by claiming the government was suppressing his free speech.

The tycoon has however received criticism for an inconsistent approach.

He has threatened suspensions that are convenient to him politically—such as of X members who post about the “decolonization” of Palestine, whose suspension could help end suspicion that Musk may himself be antisemitic—or that lean heavily towards his values, such as of those X posters who use the term “cis” in a way Musk deems offensive.

Last month, a judge ruled Musk’s lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate was “unabashedly and vociferously” obvious about its intention to punish the CCDH for criticizing his management of X—for using free speech against him—as well as to dissuade others from doing so in the future. 

Due to Musk’s uneven application of the term, Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, accused him in January of being “the world’s biggest hypocrite on free speech”. 

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