Brazil’s Post-Riot Social Media Restrictions Aren’t Worth a Free Speech Freakout

When most Brazilians think of censorship, they think of the dictatorship, of government censors in newsrooms telling editors what stories they can and cannot run. They might even think of the well-known Herzog case, an emblematic example of a real “censorship regime”—to use Greenwald’s dramatic terminology—run amok. Greenwald is obviously aware of Herzog. In 2019, he won a journalism award named after the slain journalist for his consequential work at The Intercept Brazil.

The implication that Brazil is living under a kind of juridical dictatorship today is dangerous. It suggests that the government is observing no limits in responding to the grave assault of January 8, a notion likely to inflame former President Jair Bolsonaro’s most ardent supporters, who are already inclined to see the Lula administration as illegitimate and therefore rightfully resisted. To be clear: There is no substantive reason whatsoever to fear that Brazilian authorities are denying its citizens due process.

Being banned from social media for a time might be inconvenient, and it might suck for prominent users, but it is not tyranny. It is worth remembering that there are, in fact, avenues of free expression that do not need to run through the likes of Elon Musk, which not only existed before the advent of Twitter but shall prove to be substantially more enduring than the past-its-prime social media firm. A handful of people being barred from social media does not a police state make.

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