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Brazil bans, then unbans WhatsApp, all within 12 hours

The shutdown impacted a majority of the country’s Internet users.


Selena Larson


In a move that impacted a large number of Brazilian Internet users, a judge ordered the shutdown of the WhatsApp messaging service for 48 hours on Wednesday night. But a higher court overturned the suspension after just 12 hours. 

Phone companies in Brazil have lobbied the government for a while to convince lawmakers WhatsApp is illegal, TechCrunch reports. WhatsApp lets people send messages using data and WiFi, skirting exorbitant SMS fees. It’s a popular alternative for people around the world who can’t afford to pay telcos for phone service.

The messaging app is wildly popular in Brazil, with 93 million users. WhatsApp was ordered to be shut down after it “repeatedly failed to co-operate in a criminal investigation,” according to the BBC

The shutdown is a total turnabout from the world’s first Internet Bill of Rights that Brazil passed last year, which included rules for net neutrality and protecting Brazilian’s privacy online. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his disappointment in the judge’s decision shortly after the suspension was announced. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.

I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.

We hope the Brazilian courts quickly reverse course. If you’re Brazilian, please make your voice heard and help your government reflect the will of its people.

After the shutdown, messaging app Telegram saw a massive surge in signups. On Wednesday night the company tweeted about handling more than 1.5 million new signups, calling it a “crazy load.” 

WhatsApp’s temporary shut down might just be the beginning of a crackdown on social media—some people in the government want stricter rules regulating the Internet, including criminalizing social media posts, to according to TechCrunch. 

Photo via microsiervos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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