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Brazil’s “indefinite” Whatsapp block only lasted around four hours

Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
It’s back on in Brazil now.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Brazil yesterday banned Whatsapp for the third time in eight months—but the ban was lifted after only four hours.

On July 19, a Brazilian court ordered an indefinite ban on WhatsApp for refusing to intercept and provide authorities with messages from the platform for criminal investigations, Reuters reported. Telephone operators were notified to suspend the service at around 11.30am local time, according to O Globo (link in Portuguese). Judge Daniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza said the ban will be lifted once Facebook, Whatsapp’s parent company, surrenders the requested data. She also slapped a R$50,000 ($15,374) fine on any telephone companies found violating the ban.

Whatsapp maintained that it cannot share information it doesn’t have access to. The company rolled out end-to-end encryption for all data—messages, voice calls , video calls—in April. Engineers at the chat app say they are unable to access any of the information, even if they are ordered to do so by the court.

Around four hours after the Rio de Janiero court ruling, Supreme Court president, Ricardo Lewandowski, accepted an appeal against it and overturned the block. Whatsapp confirmed the suspension of the lower court’s decision to Quartz.

The Supreme Court that overturned the block ruled that it was “disproportionate and violated people’s fundamental freedom of expression.” In his decision, the chief justice stressed how people across Brazil, who rely on WhatsApp to communicate with others every day, bear the greatest burden when the service is blocked. “We hope that this puts an end to blocks that have punished millions of Brazilians and that people can continue using services like WhatsApp to stay in touch with those who matter to them,” a Whatsapp spokesperson told Quartz.

The popular messaging app faced a 48-hour ban for not complying with the government’s requests last December, but after public outcry the ban was cut short at the 12-hour mark. In May, Whatsapp’s 100-million-strong user base had to go without the messaging service for 72 hours. Prior to the second halt in service, the company’s Latin America vice president, Diego Dzodan, was also arrested and held for less than a day because of the company’s refusal to share information.

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