WhatsApp in Brazil shut down for 72 hours after court order

3 May 2016

WhatsApp users in Brazil are facing a few days without the incredibly popular messaging service as a judge has ordered it to be shut down for a period of 72 hours because it is refusing to hand over data in a criminal investigation.

In Brazil, like many nations across the world, WhatsApp remains the dominant messaging service, with the South American country believed to have 100m users, equating to 91pc of its total mobile phone-using population.

Now, however, the chatter has ceased temporarily as a judge from the state of Sergipe has wielded his authority in forcing the Facebook-owned service to shut down for a period of 72 hours, with mobile networks facing fines of $142,000 per day if they do not comply with the shutdown.

According to The Intercept, the judge in question is Marcel Maia Montalvão, who in the last two months had called for the arrest of Facebook’s VP for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, after the company refused to cooperate as part of a subpoena in a criminal investigation.

Despite being imprisoned for a day, Dzodan argued that WhatsApp’s recent implementation of its end-to-end encryption for users means that, even if WhatsApp wanted to provide information to the Brazilian courts, it would not be able to do so.

Not the first Brazilian ban

Last month, following his brief imprisonment, Dzodan said that “the way that information is encrypted from one cellphone to another, there is no information stored that could be handed over to authorities”.

Now, it appears, that the judge’s decision to shut down the service across the country’s five mobile carriers is a direct result of Facebook and WhatsApp’s inability to provide data to the court.

WhatsApp has issued a statement saying that this decision “punishes more than 100 million users who depend upon us to communicate themselves, run their business and more, just to force us to hand over information that we don’t have”.

A similar ban was issued in Brazil last December but, despite the ruling being successfully appealed, an outage across the country was experienced for a few hours during the deliberation.

Brazilian street image Filipe Frazao/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic