WhatsApp was shut down in Brazil yesterday, marking the third time the messaging app has been banned in the country since last December. As was the case in the other two incidents, it wasn’t too long before the Facebook-owned service was up and running again.
Again, the ban revolved around Facebook’s refusal to hand over WhatsApp chat logs related to a criminal investigation. The company continues to argue that as the messages are end-to-encrypted, it simply cannot comply with the courts’ requests.
Judge Daniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza in the state of Rio de Janeiro said the most recent blackout "will only be lifted once Facebook surrenders data.” She added that the company was treating Brazil like a “banana republic,” and criticized its decision to respond to the court in English, “as if this was the official language of this country,” according to Globo.
But Brazil’s top court overturned the decision just a few hours later. Federal Supreme Court President Ricardo Lewandowski called it"scarcely reasonable or proportional."
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum posted his opinion on the app’s seemingly never-ending issues in the South American nation. "It's shocking that less than two months after Brazilian people and lawmakers loudly rejected blocks of services like Whatsapp, history is repeating itself," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Brazil’s 100 million WhatsApp users were shut out of the service for 24 hours in December after it failed to respond to a court order to hand over messages linked to a criminal organization. The ban was due to last 48 hours, but the intervention of another Judge saw it return after about 24 hours.
The Brazilian authorities weren’t finished with the company. In March, police in Sao Paulo detained Facebook’s regional vice president, Diego Dzodan, for failing to provide information related to a WhatsApp account.
Another ban arrived in May, this one set to last 72 hours. Again, it was quickly overturned after an injunction by a higher court.
A Whatsapp spokesperson said: "As we've said in the past we cannot share information we don't have access to. Indiscriminate steps like these threaten people's ability to communicate, to run their businesses, and to live their lives."