What You Need to Know About the Dispute Between Elon Musk and a Brazilian Judge Over Speech on Social Media

When billionaire Elon Musk acquired Twitter—now called X—in 2022, some feared that the self-described “absolutist” would turn the platform into an unrestrained space for expression. Now, as a Brazilian judge seeks to curb misinformation on social media, he and Musk have come into conflict in an escalating dispute that could have significant consequences for Musk, Brazil, and X.

On Saturday, X’s Global Government Affairs team announced that it had been forced to block “certain popular accounts in Brazil” without, in its view, adequate explanation. It was prohibited, it said, from publicizing what accounts were impacted as well as what court or judge issued the orders. “We believe that such orders are not in accordance with the Marco Civil da Internet or the Brazilian Federal Constitution, and we challenge the orders legally where possible,” the post said. “The people of Brazil, regardless of their political beliefs, are entitled to freedom of speech, due process, and transparency from their own authorities.”

X Corp. has been forced by court decisions to block certain popular accounts in Brazil. We have informed those accounts that we have taken this action. We do not know the reasons these blocking orders have been issued. We do not know which posts are alleged to violate the…— Global Government Affairs (@GlobalAffairs)

Tensions escalated on Sunday, however, when Musk called out the judge, Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, in a series of posts and said X would not abide by his orders no matter the consequences.

“These are the most draconian demands of any country on Earth!” Musk said in one tweet.

“We will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there,” he tweeted in another. “But principles matter more than profit.”

“This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil,” he tweeted in another. “He should resign or be impeached.”

In turn, de Moraes issued a statement saying he would include Musk in his larger investigation as well as initiate a new inquiry specifically into the X owner, who he accused of obstruction of justice and incitement to crime—actions, in the judge’s description, that “disrespect Brazil’s sovereignty.”

X has not responded to TIME’s request for comment. Here’s what to know about the situation.

Who is Alexander de Moraes?

De Moraes was appointed to Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court in 2017 after previously serving as Minister of Justice and Public Security. He has also served as president of the country’s electoral tribunal since 2022 and is known as a crusader against anti-democratic forces in Brazil.

As a justice, de Moraes has ordered investigations and his involvement with the . He has also jailed for what he claims to be .

Since , De Moraes —purveyors of fake news for political or ideological groups—that have been verbally attacking court members.

In March 2022, de Moraes ordered the , a platform used heavily by Bolsonaro and his supporters, for its alleged failure to shut down disinformation networks. Just ahead of the October 2022 presidential election runoff between and Bolsonaro, the electoral tribunal gave de Moraes .

Right-wing politicians, including Bolsonaro, have accused de Moraes of overstepping his authority and , though many of de Moraes’ defenders that the judge’s approach is sound, given the fragility of democracy in the country.

How has the Brazilian government responded to Elon Musk?

On Sunday, de Moraes warned against Musk’s decision to defy the order on blocking certain accounts, saying that each reactivated account would entail a fine of 100,000 reais ($20,000) per day.

Brazil’s attorney general Jorge Messias also reacted on X, saying that it is “urgent” that Brazil regulate social media networks operating in the country.

“We cannot live in a society in which billionaires domiciled abroad have control of social networks and put themselves in a position to violate the rule of law, failing to comply with court orders and threatening our authorities,” Messias tweeted. “Social peace is non-negotiable.”

In a separate statement, Brazilian lawmaker Orlando Silva said Musk has disrespected the country’s judiciary, adding that he would propose legislation on a “responsibilities regime for these digital platforms.”

“We have reached a limit,” Silva said. “It is a response in defense of Brazil.”

And Brazil’s Secretary of Social Communication Paulo Pimenta tweeted in response to de Moraes’ opening of an investigation into Musk: “We will not be intimidated. Our Country is sovereign and no one is going to impose their authoritarian will and enforce the logic that money makes their ‘business model’ above the Federal Constitution.”