Friday (October 21th): de Moraes’s divine hand

de Moraes
Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil (CC BY 3.0 BR)

Name? Alexandre de Moraes 

Westphalian identity? Brazilian

Age? 53

Why is he in the news? Yesterday Brazilian authorities gave the Presiding Justice of the Brazilian Electoral Court (the chief of elections) Alexandre de Moraes the unilateral power to order tech companies to remove online content to combat disinformation concerning the upcoming elections. As the runoffs approach, fake news has become rampant in Brazilian media. 

Why do we care? The Supreme Court, and de Moraes, have become a lot more powerful recently. While this has certainly kept Bolsonaro in check, lately the Court has entered grey areas regarding civil rights. In one case, federal agents raided the homes of 8 businessmen who joked over a leaked WhatsApp group-chat that they preferred a coup over another Lula da Silva presidency. While some claim a second Bolsonaro term would threaten Brazilian democracy, the fire could actually be coming from inside the house. 

Why should you care? You should always worry when institutions take such liberties controlling speech, especially in the private sphere. For this case specifically, you should care 7/10 that a single man has the right to curb speech within social media, whether they are lies or not. De Moraes has already been accused of launching biassed investigations against Bolsonaro and his allies; there is no promise of an objective standpoint to media policing. 

Who else cares? Telegram Messenger CEO Pavel Durov is an enigmatic man who whisks around the world buying passports for tax cuts. However, the use of his media platform is growing in Latin America to evade government censorship. Justice de Moraes banned the platform earlier this year due to its harbouring of political extremism. The order was revoked by the Court, and the double-edged sword remains.

Any further comments? An NGO recently discovered that YouTube and Facebook willingly allow false advertising about the elections to run on their platforms, adding to the worries about fake news affecting the aftermath of next week’s runoffs.

Francia Morales

Editor in Chief for Research and Analysis