Brazil urged to beef up platform regulation bill in response to Elon Musk’s defiance

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Brazilian government to strengthen its proposed online platform regulation law in response to an announcement by Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of the social media platform X, that he will defy a Brazilian court order to block X accounts that spread disinformation and calls for a coup d’état.

Musk is not above the law in Brazil or anywhere else. But, in yet another demonstration of the unacceptably arbitrary way in which leading platforms manage the public information arena, Musk announced in the beginning of April that X was “lifting all restrictions" on the accounts it was told to block by Brazil’s supreme court and its Superior Electoral Court (TSE). 

The measures denounced by Musk were ordered by Judge Alexandre de Moraes as the TSE president and then as a supreme court justice in response to campaigns to destabilise the rule of law in Brazil that were orchestrated with the help of disinformation spread by X accounts ideologically allied with then President Jair Bolsonaro during the 2022 presidential election. The same disinformation sources made a major contribution to the coup attempt on 8 January 2023.

“Elon Musk has acted in an unacceptably arbitrary manner, yet again showing that platforms must be firmly regulated by national laws that allow international governance. At the same time, the regulatory void in Brazil regarding the obligations of platform account users allows political actors to abuse the freedom of expression. The best response Brazil can provide is to move ahead with the regulation of digital platforms.”

Artur Romeu

Director of RSF’s Rio de Janeiro bureau

The measures taken by Judge De Moraes after the 2022 elections and the riots on 8 January 2023 may no longer be necessary, but that decision is not up to Musk.

This is why RSF urges the Brazilian government to beef up its platform regulation bill (PL 2630), which is inspired by Europe's Digital Services Act. The bill should incorporate measures recommended in a report by the Forum on Information and Democracy on the requirements that should be placed on social media users. One of the key recommendations that Brazil, in particular, needs to adopt, is the creation of special judicial units with prosecutors and judges who specialise in regulating online content and social media user accounts.

As stated in the action plan for cooperation between France and Brazilsigned a few days ago by President Lula and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, arbitrary management of leading online platforms must be reined in by means of strong national laws that allow ambitious international platform governance.


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Updated on 11.04.2024