Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Brazil removes ban on Whatsapp messenger for refusing to pass user information

Laxmi Vijith | July 21, 2016 12:56 am Print
A Brazilian court today removed a brief ban on WhatsApp messenger which lasted only for four hours. The ban was enforced for refusing to intercept and provide authorities with messages from WhatsApp messenger.

The WhatsApp messenger, which was banned in Brazil for the third time in last two years is now back in operation. The third suspension of WhatsApp service though it lasted only for four hours affected some 100 million users.

As reported by Reuters, on July 19 a Brazilian court had ordered an indefinite ban on WhatsApp for refusing to intercept and provide authorities with messages from the platform for criminal investigations. All telephone operators were asked to suspend their services at around 11.30 am local time.

Judge Daniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza said that that ban would be called off once Facebook, WhatsApp’s Parent Company, surrenders the requested data. She also declared that a fine of R$50,000 ($15,374) will be imposed on those telephone companies who are found violating the ban.

Supreme Court judge Ricardo Lewandowski later called off the nationwide blockage. WhatsApp said that they don’t have access to any of the information even if court had ordered them to do so. Supreme court said that the suspension of services apparently violates the fundamental precept of freedom of expression and communication.

Supreme Court chief Justice also stressed, people across Brazil, who rely on WhatsApp to communicate bore the biggest burden when the service was blocked. Supreme court chief Justice Mr Lewandowski pointed out that the lower court judge’s decision appeared to be not reasonable and proportional.

A correspondent said that WhatsApp which is owned by the social media giant Facebook since February 2015 gradually restarted normal service after the court had called off the ban. Last December, the popular messaging app, WhatsApp had faced a 48-hour ban for not having complied with the government’s requests, but after a public request the ban was cut short to 12-hours.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said that it was shocking that less than two months after Brazilian people and lawmakers had loudly rejected blocks of services like WhatsApp but history is repeating itself. He was referring to its suspension for 72 hours in May, which had forced its users to rely on alternative services.

Laxmi Vijith