WhatsApp banned in Brazil
WhatsApp has been banned in Brazil after refusing to hand over information relating to a criminal investigation.
The popular messaging app, which has around 100 million users in the country, was blocked nationwide for 72 hours on Monday, leaving users unable to send or receive messages.
The suspension was ordered by Marcel Maia Montalvao, a judge in the small, remote northeastern state of Sergipe.
The suspension marks the latest chapter in a dispute between Brazilian law enforcement and Facebook, which bought WhatsApp in 2014.
Brazilian officials have accused the company of repeatedly failing to turn over information on WhatsApp users for an investigation into drug trafficking and organised crime.
However, WhatsApp insists that it does not have the information that authorities want, because it uses end-to-end encryption that ensures only the sender and recipient can access the content of messages.
In a statement widely cited in Brazilian media, WhatsApp said the company was disappointed by the judge’s decision, saying it “punished more than 100 million Brazilians who depend on our service.”
Jan Koum, the app’s founder, also posted a message on Facebook, claiming that messages are encrypted to keep people’s information safe and secure.
WhatsApp is popular in Brazil, where phone calls and text messages can be prohibitively expensive.
Rival messaging app Telegram said that more than a million people have tried to join since WhatsApp’s ban.
The influx of new users has resulted in the text message service used to verify new users’ phone numbers crashing.
Sorry, Brazil! Your mobile networks can’t process as many verification SMS as we’re sending them. Over a million users joined, more waiting
— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) May 2, 2016
This is not the first time Brazilian authorities have ordered telecoms to block WhatsApp over its refusal to cooperate with a police inquiry.
The app was suspended in December 2015 for allegedly withholding of messages relating to a suspect in a drug trafficking investigation. However, it was quickly reinstated by an appeals court following protests.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that he was “stunned” by the “extreme decision” to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.