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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

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Elon Musk stands against authoritarianism in Brazil

Since December 2023, Elon Musk has made public thousands of internal documents, emails and conversations among X (formerly known as Twitter employees. With the help of journalists Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger, his goal is to fully uncover the truth behind content moderation decisions at the social media giant, especially when it comes to high profile actions such as the banning of former President Trump from the platform. 

On April 3, Shellenberger published a report on his X profile detailing the unlawful and authoritarian measures taken by Alexandre de Moraes, one of Brazil’s  supreme court justices and leader of Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE). The files released in the report highlight De Moraes’ infringement and violation of Brazilian laws, including the right to freedom of speech guaranteed to all Brazilians by Chapter 5, Article 220, Paragraph 2 of the Brazilian Constitution. They reveal attempts to illegally compel the social media giant to disclose personal information about Twitter users who used hashtags he disapproved of. Additionally, de Moraes demanded the deletion of accounts belonging to his political opponents, including prominent journalists and sitting congressmen. This action, conducted without due process (as was the case), violates various sections under Title II of Brazil’s Constitution, specifically sections 8, 9, 17, 27 and 26 of the Fundamental Rights and Guarantees of the individual and collective under Brazil's Constitution. Email exchanges between Twitter's legal team in Brazil and other employees reveal that de Moraes imposed a daily $30,000 fee for any account that wasn’t removed within one hour of his request. These actions were conducted under court secrecy, ensuring that penalized individuals would believe the enforcement was based on Twitter’s user policy rather than a request from the Supreme Court justice.

Since then, de Moraes’ war against free speech and democracy in Brazil has gained the attention of several high profile celebrities such as Russell Crowe, Sean Ono Lennon and most importantly Elon Musk. Less than one hour after the files regarding the demands of the TSE and Brazil’s wannabe dictator were published, the South African entrepreneur decided it was time to suspend all bans in accounts. He did this despite the massive fines, threats to ban X from Brazil and threats to arrest employees. As a response, de Moraes made Musk part of a criminal investigation claiming that he, by not complying to the judges demand and condoning the justice’s actions, is intentionally encouraging crime and that all of his comments on the social platform are creating a public disinformation campaign against the top court’s actions, more commonly known as de Moraes’ actions.

Now, Musk is going even further to shed light on what truly happens in the country of samba and caipirinhas. By talking to jurists, congressmen and journalists, he is helping to expose the fact that the Twitter files are just a few of the many occasions where de Moraes has majorly overstepped his position and infringed Brazilian legislation. Among them are the shutdown order against Telegram in 2022 on the grounds that they ignored his requests, the temporary ban of left-wing party PCO of all social media for calling the justice, who happens to be bald, a “baldy” and the blockage of the bank account and passport of ex-judge Ludmila Lins Grillo who has previously denounced the abuses of the Brazilian supreme court, which makes her, along with many others, a political refugee in the United States from de Moraes’ tyranny. 

I never thought that Elon Musk would be doing more for our country’s freedom and laws than many of the elected senators. But the truth is, those who are too afraid or compromised to call for his impeachment are complicit with the shiny-headed tyrant and don’t understand that each instance of censorship or suppression establishes a dangerous precedent that will affect the whole Brazilian population and could one day turn against them. As for de Moraes and his savior complex, claiming that he is saving Brazil’s democracy, it’s clear that his actions contradict this assertion. His violation of free speech and obstruction of discussion, both intrinsic parts of a working democracy, only serve to undermine the very values he claims to uphold. Instead, he, consumed by an insatiable quest for power, ultimately harms the democratic principles he purports to champion.

Lara is a member of the class of 2026 from Taubaté, Brazil with majors in economics and Chinese. When she is not complaining about the weather, you can find her studying in a random room of O'Shaughnessy with her friends or spending all her flex points in Garbanzo. You can contact Lara by email at lvictor@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.