After Twitter CEO Elon Musk gutted much of Twitter’s staff in Brazil following the October elections, including all employees charged with moderating content for incitement of violence and misinformation, critics are claiming the bloodbath was over Twitter’s alleged role in undermining the conservative presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.
Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter on October 27; the run-off election for Brazil was held on October 30. In the initial election on October 2, neither Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro nor leftist Luiz Inacio da Silva, who served as president of Brazil from 2003-2010, could gain more than half of the valid votes, precipitating a run-off election, which ended with Lula receiving 50.90% of the votes to Bolsonaro’s 49.10%, the closest presidential election in Brazil’s history.
In early November, Twitter Brazil suspended the profiles of three right-wing politicians, prompting one Twitter user to ask Musk, “Hey @elonmusk, your company has been imposing a draconian ideological censorship of the Brazilian people’s right to free speech. We are at a critical moment in our history! Wtf is going on?? We thought you bought Twitter exactly for this reason! Rise and lift the censorship NOW!”
When Musk responded, “What censorship are you referring to?” Paulo Figueiredo Filho, the grandson of João Figueiredo, Brazil’s military president between 1979 and 1985, chimed in, “Of course, Twitter needs to obey Brazilian ‘court’ decisions. But the company has gone above and beyond, spontaneously imposing its own censorship, even stricter than that of our flawed courts. Your moderators are currently being more dictatorial than our own courts!”
“I will look into this,” Musk responded.
I will look into this
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
In early December, Avi Yemini of Rebel News tweeted at Musk, “Hey @elonmusk, can you find out what other elections were ‘handled’ by the former Twitter regime? Thank you, The rest of the world.”
Musk replied, “I’ve seen a lot of concerning tweets about the recent Brazil election. If those tweets are accurate, it’s possible that Twitter personnel gave preference to left wing candidates.”
I’ve seen a lot of concerning tweets about the recent Brazil election. If those tweets are accurate, it’s possible that Twitter personnel gave preference to left wing candidates.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 3, 2022
Musk followed with a mid-December tweet in which he stated, “Twitter may have people on the Brazil team that are strongly politically biased.” In May 2022, Musk visited Bolsonaro in Brazil, where they discussed projects that could protect the Amazon rainforest. At roughly the same time, Bolosonaro called the possible acquisition of Twitter by Musk “a breath of hope,” adding that he hoped Musk would show the rest of the world how Brazil protected the rainforest.