Brazil Supreme Court opens investigation into Elon Musk amid disinformation row

8 April 2024, 14:54

Elon Musk appears at an event in London, on Nov. 2, 2023.
Brazil Musk Investigation. Picture: PA

The new inquiry will look into whether Mr Musk engaged in ‘obstruction, criminal organisation and incitement’.

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has included Elon Musk as a target in an ongoing probe over the dissemination of fake news and opened a separate investigation into the tech billionaire for alleged obstruction.

In his decision, Justice noted that Mr Musk began waging a public “disinformation campaign” regarding the top court’s actions on Saturday, and that Mr Musk continued the following day — most notably with comments that his social media company X would cease to comply with the court’s orders to block certain accounts.

“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,” Mr de Moraes wrote.

 President of the Superior Electoral Court, Judge Alexandre de Moraes, speaks during the inauguration of the Center for Combating Disinformation and Defense of Democracy in Brasilia
Mr de Moraes’ defenders have said his decisions, although extraordinary, are legally sound and necessary to extinguish threats to Brazilian democracy (Eraldo Peres/AP)

Mr Musk will be investigated for alleged “intentional criminal instrumentalisation” of X as part of an inquiry into a network of people known as “digital militia” who allegedly spread defamatory fake news and threats against Supreme Court justices, according to the text of the decision.

The new investigation will look into whether Mr Musk engaged in obstruction, criminal organisation and incitement.

Mr Musk has not commented on X about the latest development as of late Sunday.

Brazil’s political right has long characterised Mr de Moraes as overstepping his bounds to clamp down on free speech and engage in political persecution.

In the digital militias investigation, lawmakers from former president Jair Bolsonaro’s circle have been imprisoned and his supporters’ homes raided.

Mr Bolsonaro himself became a target of the investigation in 2021.

Mr de Moraes’ defenders have said his decisions, although extraordinary, are legally sound and necessary to purge social media of fake news as well as extinguish threats to Brazilian democracy — notoriously underscored by the January 8 2023 uprising in Brazil’s capital which resembled the Janurary 6 2021 insurrection in the US Capitol.

On Saturday, Mr Musk — a self-declared free speech absolutist — wrote on X that the platform would lift all restrictions on blocked accounts and predicted that the move was likely to dry up revenue in Brazil and force the company to shutter its local office.

“But principles matter more than profit,” he wrote.

He later instructed users in Brazil to download a VPN to retain access if X was shut down and wrote that X would publish all of Mr de Moraes’ demands, claiming they violate Brazilian law.

“These are the most draconian demands of any country on Earth!” he later wrote.

Mr Musk had not published Mr de Moraes’ demands as of late Sunday and prominent blocked accounts remained so, indicating X had yet to act based on Musk’s previous pledges.

Elon Musk at an AI safety summit
Mr Musk wrote on X that the platform would lift all restrictions on blocked accounts and predicted that the move was likely to dry up revenue in Brazil (Leon Neal/PA)

Mr de Moraes’ decision warned against doing so, saying each blocked account that X eventually reactivates will entail a fine of 100,000 reais (20,000 dollars) per day, and that those responsible will be held legally to account for disobeying a court order.

Brazil’s constitution was drafted after the 1964-1985 military dictatorship and contains a long list of aspirational goals and prohibitions against specific crimes such as racism and, more recently, homophobia.

But freedom of speech is not absolute.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani pleads not guilty in Arizona election interference case

Spain’s embassy in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Spain withdraws ambassador to Argentina over comments made by President Milei

Former US president Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York

Defence rests without Donald Trump entering witness box in hush money trial

British pensioner, 73, killed during London-Singapore flight named as musical theatre director Geoffrey Kitchen

Pictured: Pensioner, 73, killed during London-Singapore flight named as British musical theatre director

Exclusive
The two relatives of the hostages appealed for the Israeli government to push for a ceasefire.

Relatives of hostages held by Hamas after October 7 attacks urge Israeli government to reach ceasefire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock in Kyiv, Ukraine

Germany’s foreign minister says air defences for Ukraine an ‘absolute priority’

The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis

Elvis Presley’s granddaughter fights company’s attempt to sell Graceland estate

Elon Musk

Tesla shareholders ask investors to vote against Musk’s compensation package

Mourners gather around a truck carrying coffins of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash

Mourners begin days of funerals for Iran’s president killed in helicopter crash

British pensioner, 73, dead after 'heart attack' when London-Singapore flight plummeted during severe turbulence

British pensioner, 73, dead after 'heart attack' when London-Singapore flight plummeted during severe turbulence

Syria’s first lady Asma Assad, second left, with her husband Syrian President Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s wife, Asma Assad, diagnosed with leukaemia

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron to visit violence-hit New Caledonia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel aims to contain fallout from arrest warrant request backed by some allies

One of nine Egyptians, who was on trial for migrant smuggling, waves to the media as he leaves the court in Kalamata

Greek judge dismisses case against Egyptians accused over migrant ship disaster

Main defendant Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss

Alleged leaders of suspected German coup plot on trial

People attend a ceremony to pay tribute to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi

What next for Iran’s government after death of president in helicopter crash?