Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is deeply upset by a Supreme Court judge’s decision to ban the popular messaging service Telegram in Brazil. According to him, the ruling is “unacceptable” and threatens the “freedom” of Brazilians. According to Bolsonaro, it “cost lives”.
Judge Alexandre de Moraes decided to block Telegram because the company had repeatedly refused to suspend the accounts of some individuals involved in distributing fake news and to delete posts it believed contained misinformation.
“The judge did not take any action on two or three people who thought they should be banned, so he decided to strike 70 million people. What is at stake is our freedom,” Bolsonaro said at a meeting with leaders of the Evangelical Church in Rio Branco in the northern state of Acre. De Moraes’ decision could “cost lives due to the lack of communication options between patients and their doctors”.
Telegram is one of the main communication channels the far-right president uses in his election campaign. Despite lagging far behind in the polls of his main rival, former President Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro hopes to be re-elected president in October.
Other tech companies like Meta (owner of WhatsApp and Facebook) and Alphabet (owner of Google and Twitter) have complied with court orders in recent years to ban hate-promoting accounts. This has allowed Russian founder and CEO Pavel Durov to become the preferred channel for conspiracy theories, false information, and insults from Bolsonaro supporters.
Long disagreement with the judge
De Moraes’ decision is another clash in the long-running feud between the judge and Bolsonaro. De Moraes is leading several investigations into Bolsonaro, his sons, and some of his supporters for spreading false news or classified information.
The judge’s intervention angered Bolsonaro for some time. Last year, on September 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, this led to an unprecedented stern attack by the President on de Moraes. “Stop being a villain, Alexandre de Moraes. Resign. I will not respect this judge’s decision anymore,” Bolsonaro said at the time.
After major political turmoil and a demand to stop following court decisions could lead to impeachment proceedings, Bolsonaro capitulated. He somewhat retracted his words in a ten-point statement he co-wrote with former President Michel Temer: “I spoke in the midst of this moment.”
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