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Brazil blocks WhatsApp for 48 hours over legal dispute

WhatsApp has been blocked for 48 hours in Brazil following a court order.

Access to the OTT messaging service was shut down at midnight on Thursday morning, after it refused to comply with a judicial order issued in July. While WhatsApp received a non-compliance fine in August, it has now had a further punishment imposed by Judge Sandra Regina Nostre Marques. The service was suspended by the Brazilian phone company association SindiTelebrasil.

The original judicial order relates to a case in which a drug trafficker believed to have links to a criminal gang based in Sao Paolo allegedly used WhatsApp. Based on comments from Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook – which owns WhatsApp – it can be inferred that WhatsApp refused to surrender the user’s data to the Brazilian authorities.

Zuckerberg said that he was “stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.” He also noted that “we are working hard to get this block reversed.”

Jan Koum, CEO of WhatsApp, added that the firm was “disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many Brazilians have come to depend on, and sad to see Brazil isolate itself from the rest of the world.”

Zuckerberg noted that Brazil had been proactive in helping to bring about an open internet, and that the 100 million WhatsApp users in the country could use Facebook messenger as a temporary alternative. In 2013, Brazil introduced legislation that restricted monitoring of internet users; however there is an undercurrent of resistance to this bill of rights.

WhatsApp has drawn the ire of operators in Brazil, who have lobbied the government to impose limitations on free calls made via the app, arguing that the process is illegal by virtue of being unregulated. Meanwhile, users are flocking to WhatsApp’s rival Telegram, which has picked up over 1 million new users in a day.

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