All Talk No Game? Musk Caves After Pledging to Protect Free Speech

April 18th, 2024 3:46 PM

Tech mogul Elon Musk has folded in his so-called defense of free speech in his recent battle with a Brazilian court.

On Monday, Musk's attorneys informed Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes that social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) will comply with all of the censorship demands targeting accounts accused of spreading misinformation, according to Reuters.

"As already communicated to the federal police, X Brasil informs that all orders issued by this Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court will continue to be fully complied with by X Corp," Musk’s legal counsel reportedly wrote in the letter addressed to Moraes.

Musk’s compliance marks a stark departure from his vehement threats to ignore the orders. “We are lifting all restrictions,” Musk declared on April 6, accusing the Moraes of threatening X with fines and imprisonment. “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.”

Related: UPDATE: Are You Paying Attention? Brazil Escalates Major Free Speech Assault

The battle between X and de Moraes stems from an inquiry by Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court that centers on the spread of what the government deemed to be misinformation amid federal elections. In court rulings, Moraes accused X of allowing some popular Brazil-based users to spread so-called misinformation. In turn, he demanded Musk censor them.

In court decisions, Moraes accused X of being a major driver of alleged misinformation and demanded Musk censor these users. Amid Musk’s initial refusal to comply with such demands, Moraes threatened to impose daily fines of $20,000 for each account not banned.

Last week, the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court declined to respond to MRC’s request for comment on Musk’s refusal to comply with the orders. Instead, a court spokesperson directed MRC to a criminal referral directing the county’s attorney general to investigate Musk for potential obstruction of justice.

Before Monday, Musk had hurled scathing comments at the Brazilian assault against its citizens’ free speech. “The severity of the censorship and the degree to which Brazil’s own laws are being broken, to the detriment of their own people, is the worst of any country in the world in which this platform operates,” he wrote on April 10.

Hours earlier that same day, Musk declared that X respected the Brazilian laws but said the company “must refuse” to comply with orders that break the law. His remarks likely refer to earlier characterizations of Morae’s orders as lacking legitimate legal basis. 

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