WhatsApp service in Brazil shut off by court order

Mr Mark Zuckerberg calls the blocking of access to WhatsApp "a sad day for Brazil".
Mr Mark Zuckerberg calls the blocking of access to WhatsApp "a sad day for Brazil".

RIO DE JANEIRO • Access in Brazil to the WhatsApp phone-messaging application was cut off yesterday after a judge told phone companies to block the popular service for 48 hours for failure to comply with a July court order in a criminal case.

SindiTelebrasil, a Brazilian phone-company association, said it received the order to shut off WhatsApp text message and Internet voice telephone service throughout Latin America's largest country on Wednesday afternoon. The blockade went into effect at midnight.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, says it has more than 100 million personal users in Brazil. The service is widely used by people, companies and federal and local governments to send messages and share pictures and videos. "This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open Internet," Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg posted.

The shutdown order stems from a criminal proceeding in the Sao Paulo State Justice Tribunal in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the court said in a statement. SindiTelebrasil said it and its members are not party to the case.

According to Band News TV, the case involves a drug trafficker linked to the PCC, or First Command of the Capital, one of Sao Paulo's biggest and most dangerous criminal gangs.

The trafficker allegedly used WhatsApp in the commission of crimes. Band News did not say how it got its information.

"We are disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many Brazilians have come to depend on, and sad to see Brazil isolate itself from the rest of the world," said Mr Jan Koum, chief executive of WhatsApp, in a statement posted on Facebook.

According to the court, WhatsApp failed to comply with a judicial order issued on July 23.

Mountain View, California- based WhatsApp was notified again on Aug 7 when the court set a fine for non-compliance. Most details of the case are being kept secret by the judge, as is allowed under Brazilian law.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'WhatsApp service in Brazil shut off by court order'. Print Edition | Subscribe