WhatsApp Back in Brazil; Zuckerberg Calls for Rally Against Blocks

“Brazilians have been leaders in connecting the world and creating an open internet for many years.”

Updated
Tech News
2 min read
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg called on Brazilians to demand his company’s WhatsApp messaging service never be blocked again after an appeals court on Tuesday overturned the application’s second suspension in five months.

In a post on his Facebook page, the US billionaire and Facebook founder urged Brazilians to gather outside Congress in the capital Brasilia at 6 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday to rally in favour of legislation that would prevent Internet services from being blocked.

WhatsApp was cut off in Brazil at 2 pm (1700 GMT) on Monday after a judge in the remote northeastern state of Sergipe ordered Brazil’s five main wireless operators to block access to the app for 72 hours. The reason for the order was not made public.

The suspension of WhatsApp’s text message and Internet voice telephone service for smartphones was lifted after about 24 hours when an appeals judge on Tuesday ruled in favour of an injunction by the company’s lawyers, the court said in a statement. Some 100 million users were affected.

You and your friends can help make sure this never happens again, and I hope you get involved.
Zuckerberg on Facebook

He also posted a link to a petition, calling efforts to block communication “very scary in a democracy.”

The suspension highlighted growing international tensions between technology companies’ privacy concerns and national authorities’ efforts to use social media to gain information on possible criminal activities.

The same judge in Sergipe ordered the imprisonment of a Brazil-based Facebook executive in March in a dispute over demands to access the company’s encrypted messaging service as part of a drug trafficking investigation.

California-based WhatsApp had said in a statement on Monday that it was “disappointed” at the judge’s decision to suspend its services. It said it had done the utmost to cooperate with Brazilian tribunals, but it did not possess the information the court was requesting.

Matt Steinfeld, a Facebook spokesperson, said WhatsApp executives were meeting this week with law enforcement and judicial officials in Brazil to improve communication and clarify that the company cannot see users’ encrypted messages and does not store them after transmission.

This is the second time in the last five months that WhatsApp has been suspended in Brazil.  (Photo: iStockphoto)
This is the second time in the last five months that WhatsApp has been suspended in Brazil. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Brazilians Angered

It was the second time in five months that WhatsApp in Brazil has been suspended. A São Paulo state judge ordered it shut down for 48 hours on 15 December after Facebook failed to comply with an order. Another court lifted that suspension shortly afterwards.

Monday’s suspension angered many in Brazil, where the service is used by individuals, companies and federal and local governments to send messages and share pictures and videos.

Cost-conscious Brazilians are avid users of free messaging apps, and WhatsApp is by far the most popular – installed on more than 90 percent of Android devices.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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