Elon Musk and the dispute over sovereignty in digital territory

In Brazil, this behavior has significant implications for national sovereignty and the regulation of digital platforms, as seen in Musk’s confrontation with Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court and Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Yasmin Curzi de Mendonça

Elon Musk's influence over global politics and digital governance is becoming increasingly evident as he continues to use X (formerly Twitter) to establish alliances with right-wing political leaders and promote business interests. In Brazil, this behavior has significant implications for national sovereignty and the regulation of digital platforms, as seen in his confrontation with Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court and Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Recently, Musk directly defied Federal Supreme Court orders demanding the moderation of content on his platform, including the dissemination of explicit disinformation and hate speech. Despite having faithfully complied with hundreds of court rulings in many other countries without making any accusations of censorship, Musk took a stand against what he calls illegal interventions and threats to freedom of expression.

As detailed in a New York Times investigation, this case reflects Musk’s broader strategy to use his influence to support political leaders who could favor his financial interests, such as Javier Milei in Argentina and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Thus, Musk not only uses the X platform to support these leaders but also seeks significant corporate advantages. In Argentina, for example, he has a direct interest in lithium reserves, an essential component for the batteries in his electric cars manufactured by Tesla. In Brazil, Musk wants to expand Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet platform.

The presentation of the “Twitter Files” regarding Brazil to the U.S. Congress spelled out the potential political motives for Elon Musk. The allegations, which served as an excuse for Musk to launch attacks on Justice Alexandre de Moraes and Brazilian democracy, were later refuted by Brazilian lawyers, including Estela Aranha, who explained that the alleged threats were related to a legitimate investigation by the Sao Paulo State Public Prosecutors’ Office into members of the PCC, a large Brazilian criminal organization, and did not directly involve the Federal Supreme Court or issues of freedom of expression. This episode underlines the need for greater responsibility to be shown by corporations that manage crucial activities such as the intermediation of public communication.

The case of Musk vs. Moraes is not just about content moderation; it’s about a state's ability to enforce its law and regulation in the face of the growing power of global digital corporations that lack accountability. It reinforces the need for stricter and more coordinated regulation of online platforms, considering not only the right to free speech but also the integrity of democracy and transparency. This is not just a confrontation between a global corporation and a national state; it is a microcosm of struggles to regulate digital spaces, where tensions between freedom of expression, national sovereignty, and corporate responsibility continue to challenge public authorities and civil society. This situation calls for critical reflection on how digital platform companies should operate in different legal and cultural contexts while respecting human rights.

*The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the institutional position of FGV.

*As opiniões expressas neste artigo são de responsabilidade exclusiva do(s) autor(es), não refletindo necessariamente a posição institucional da FGV.


  • Yasmin Curzi de Mendonça

    Professor at FGV Direito Rio, coordinator of its Diversity and Inclusion Program and Researcher at its Center for Technology and Society, working since 2019 with a focus on Human Rights and Technology, Platform Regulation, Gender and Digital Democracy. She holds a PhD from IESP-UERJ, a Master's degree from PUC-Rio, a degree in Law and Social Sciences from FGV-Rio, with a period of Academic Exchange at Université Sorbonne Paris-IV. Member of the National Cybersecurity Committee of the Presidency of the Republic.

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