More reports on: Telecom

Brazil judge orders mobile phone providers to block WhatsApp for 72 hours

03 May 2016

A judge in Brazil has ordered mobile phone providers to block the popular WhatsApp messaging application for 72 hours. According to commentators, the decision was aimed at making the service turn over user data.

The service, owned by Facebook, is used by roughly half of Brazil's 200 million people.

Though the judge did not give a reason for the order, which came into force yesterday, it was thought to be related to a drug-trafficking investigation.

The same judge had ordered the arrest of Facebook's vice president for Latin America in March after he refused to turn over data on WhatsApp customers suspected in a drug case (See: Brazil detains Facebook executive over data dispute ).

Yesterday's order marked the second time that authorities had shut down WhatsApp in Brazil.

A different court in December had ordered a 48-hour suspension after the service refused to comply with a criminal investigation.

The service gained such popularity in Brazil that it had essentially replaced traditional text messaging, which could be expensive. Without WhatsApp, many Brazilians using ordinary pay-as-you-go plans had no way to send messages.

''This decision punishes more than 100 million Brazilians who rely on our services,'' a WhatsApp spokesman said of the shutdown. He added that the company had cooperated to the ''full extent of our ability with local courts.''

Brazilians are concerned over the possibility of the Congress passing laws weakening digital privacy. Under one law, companies were asked to remove content deemed critical of politicians within 48 hours, another provided for imprisonment for violations of an internet site's terms of use.

Many internet privacy advocates are worried, including the authors of Brazil's widely respected internet bill of rights or Marco Civil.

Brazilians, yesterday took to Twitter to lament the loss of WhatsApp, which was used there as much by professionals as by students. But it offered respite for some. @IZATLEITE, a Twitter user, wrote, ''now without WhatsApp, I'll finally be able to read without being disturbed or interrupted.''

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