Elon Musk Faces Brazil Investigation Over Refusal to Ban X Users

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Key Takeaways

  • A Brazilian judge has launched an inquiry over Elon Musk’s defiance of a court order to block some far-right X users.
  • Musk claimed the bans violate free speech and planned to reverse the measures.
  • The entrepreneur called for the judge to be impeached or resign.

Elon Musk has been slapped with a legal inquiry in Brazil after a fight over a court order. It demanded that social media giant X ban the accounts of multiple far-right users.

According to documents voluntarily disclosed to writer Michael Shellenberger, Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered X to take down the accounts while investigating ex-president Jair Bolsonaro’s bid to hold power after his loss in the 2022 election.

Musk objected to the order, calling it “aggressive censorship” and demanding that the judge “resign or be impeached.” He vowed to reverse the bans and defy a restriction on publishing the blocked accounts’ details, prompting Moraes’ investigation.


Shellenberger posted over two years of conversations between the X legal department and Brazil’s judiciary as part of Musk’s ongoing “Twitter Files” campaign. This campaign seeks to uncover alleged scandals on social networks by publishing internal information.

The bans came after pro-Bolsonaro “digital militias” marched into government buildings in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia on January 8th, 2023. The move was characterized as a would-be coup to restore Bolsonaro after he lost to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Musk has frequently positioned himself as a champion of free speech. He has overturned bans on numerous prominent X users, including former US president Donald Trump and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The Brazilian government, however, argued that the tech executive was breaking the law and threatening officials.

The X CEO was aware of the potential consequences. He believed the company would “probably” have to close its Brazil office and lose revenue from the country. He further recommended that Brazilians use a VPN to keep using X even if it is unavailable.

A withdrawal from Brazil is unlikely to affect Elon Musk significantly. He’s currently considered the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $230.2 billion as of January 2024.

However, the move could amplify X’s ongoing financial troubles. Since Musk acquired the company in late 2022, the firm has seen sharp drops in revenue and profit, with income dropping nearly 146% year-over-year by the end of 2023.

A Brazil exit could deprive X of more money, not to mention a major source of users who might otherwise head to rivals like Instagram.