A Brazilian judge has ordered local cell phone carriers to block WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service on their network for 72 hours. The decision will affect around 100 million users of the messaging app.
Judge Marcel Montalvao from the Brazilian state of Sergipe ordered telecom providers in the country to temporarily block WhatsApp today as a ‘punishment’ for the company’s non-compliance with his request.
The temporary ban was issued after Judge Montalvao ordered WhatsApp to hand over chat records related to a drug investigation, but Whatsapp stated that the chats could not be accessed in an unencrypted form. And therefore, they cannot provide records of the chats to the court.
Notably, WhatsApp has announced an end-to-end encryption of its users’ communications recently. This means the company will not be able to provide information to governments, even if it tried.
According to Tech Crunch, a local paper reported that the ban would begin at 2 pm local time and the phone companies would have to pay fines if they did not comply.
Reportedly, this is not the first time that Brazilian government has temporarily shut down WhatsApp. Allegedly, in 2015 December, Judge Montalvao has also temporarily shut down WhatsApp services for 48 hours, as it refused to remove illicit photos of minors. But the ban only lasted for 12 hours as another judge ruled that millions of users should not be “affected by the inertia of the company.”
In March Montalvao ordered the arrest of Facebook’s Latin American Vice President Diego Dzodan to force Facebook and whatsApp to hand over data. Facebook called the ruling “ extreme and disproportionate.”
Another judge agreed that the move is “unlawful coercion” and Dzodan was released a day after his arrest, reported engadget.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told Tech Crunch, “After cooperating to the full extent of our ability with the local courts, we are disappointed a judge in Sergipe decided yet again to order the block of WhatsApp in Brazil. This decision punishes more than 100 million Brazilians who rely on our service to communicate, run their businesses, and more, in order to force us to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have.”
The local cell phone carriers -Telefonica Brasil SA, América Móvil SAB’s Claro, TIM Participações SA, Oi SA and Nextel Participações, have not commented on the issue even now.