Could crackdown on free speech in Brazil be U.S.’s future? Is Elon Musk our Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’?

Brazil is “on the brink” of shutting down free speech online – but may only be further down the same path President Biden is blazing in the U.S.

Leading free speech activist Michael…

Brazil is “on the brink” of shutting down free speech online – but may only be further down the same path President Biden is blazing in the U.S.

Leading free speech activist Michael Shellenberger reported this weekend that a Brazilian Supreme Court justice had ordered a crackdown on posts and accounts on X/Twitter there.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes, says Shellenberger, “illegally demanded that Twitter reveal private information about Twitter users who used hashtags he considered inappropriate. He demanded access to Twitter’s internal data, violating the platform’s policy. He censored, on his own initiative and without any respect for due process, posts on Twitter by parliamentarians from the Brazilian Congress. And Moraes tried to turn Twitter’s content moderation policies into a weapon against supporters of then-president Jair Bolsonaro.”

Shellenberger claims “Google, Facebook, Uber, WhatsApp and Instagram” went along with the free speech crackdown, which “betrayed the people of Brazil. If such evidence is proven, the executives of these companies behaved like cowards: they provided the Brazilian government with personal registration data and telephone numbers without a court order and, therefore, [violated] the law.”

When X/Twitter owner Elon Musk openly defied the Brazilian judge and refused to hand over “private user information, including direct messages, the government attempted to sue Twitter’s top Brazilian lawyer,” Shellenberger reports.

Shellenberger says the judge, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, subsequently opened a criminal investigation into Musk “for allegedly spreading disinformation, obstructing justice, and allowing people who De Moraes had banned from social media to freely express their views. De Moraes said he would fine X twenty thousand dollars per day for every banned person Musk allows to speak.”

“It is not an exaggeration to say that Brazil is on the brink of dictatorship at the hands of a totalitarian Supreme Court Justice named Alexandre de Moraes,” Shellenberger argues.

For his part, Musk writes that “we will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there. But principles matter more than profit.”

The question for Americans is whether they are immune from such government overreach.

You have to wonder.

It was alarming enough when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson worried in recent oral arguments in the Missouri v. Biden case fighting online censorship by the federal government that the plaintiffs would have “the First Amendment hamstringing the federal government in significant ways in the most important time periods.”

Democrats have openly suggested, even urged, the packing of the U.S. Supreme Court from nine justices to 13 or 15 to let Biden “populate it with more liberal jurists” – presumably more justices like Jackson who view it as a bad thing for the First Amendment to be “hamstringing” the government, as the amendment was clearly intended to do from the beginning.

Missouri v. Biden hasn’t yet been tried, but the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to approve or dissolve injunctions by two lower courts prohibiting the Biden administration from colluding with Big Tech social media companies to censor conservative posts on such matters as COVID-19 vaccines and lockdowns and the legitimacy of the 2020 and, presumably, the 2024 presidential election.

The high court’s ruling, expected by June, will set the ground rules for online speech in advance of the coming election.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, and his predecessor Eric Schmitt who filed the case alongside the Louisiana AG, maintain they have already shown a “vast censorship enterprise” by the Biden administration.

If true, is it so different from Brazil’s?

“Brazil’s present is our future if Democrats achieve their dream of packing the Supreme Court,” warns tech entrepreneur David Sacks.

Says Shellenberger: “The events of the last few weeks make clear that Elon Musk is the only thing standing in the way of global totalitarianism. Without free speech, there can be no democracy. …

“The fact that the future of free speech rests upon the shoulders of a single individual is not something any of us should want.”

Elon Musk, it appears, has become the free speech equivalent of Tiananmen Square’s “Tank Man” – the lone civilian figure courageous enough to stand in front of government tyranny.