Brazil Judge Blocks Usage of Facebook’s WhatsApp for 48 Hours

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Brazil Judge Blocks Usage of Facebook’s WhatsApp for 48 Hours.

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, has been ordered by a Brazilian judge to shut down for two days. Brazil woke up in a weird sort of time travel – all the way back to 2012 – after a judge ordered a 48-hour shutdown of the messaging app WhatsApp, beginning at midnight local time.A Brazilian court suspended Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messenger for 48 hours, effective Thursday, affecting its more than 100 million users in the country and generating waves of criticism in social media.“A sad day for Brazil” was how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described the decision of a Brazilian court to block the popular messaging application WhatsApp. “This is a sad day for Brazil. Criminal Judge Sandra Regina Nostre Marques ordered the suspension of the service in a case that runs under secrecy, Sao Paulo Justice Court said in a statement posted on its website.

According to the Sao Paolo court, “Because WhatsApp did not respond to a court order of July 23, 2015, on August 7, 2015, the company was again notified, with there being a fixed penalty in case of non-compliance. Brazil’s telecoms industry, which sees so-called “over the top” voice and messaging services delivered over the internet as a threat to its business model, has been lobbying the government for months to declare these services illegal, according to TechCrunch. This major influx seems to have started before Brazil’s WhatsApp blackout came into effect, showing a proactive user base that was preempting the ban by switching to an alternative service.

Brazilian mobile operators said they will comply with the order in a joint statement published Wednesday evening on the website of SindiTelebrasil, a group representing the sector. This blockade comes on the heels of Brazil’s largest telecoms operators lobbying against WhatsApp in August, because it operates using standard mobile numbers, but offers free voice calling. Though there’s been strong opposition to WhatsApp — which provides an internet calling service along with messaging — from local telecoms, it’s not yet clear why Brazil’s judiciary deemed this ban necessary. According to reports, major telcos have referred to WhatsApp as illegal, unregulated and a “pirate operator” – much like the battles that minicab disruptor Uber has been facing in cities around the world, ranging from Sydney to London.

The shutdown order was issued by a judge in an industrial city in Sao Paulo state, in an attempt to force the company to provide user data as part of a criminal trial. But thats Koum, as far as Zuckerberg goes, the situation in India with his Free Basics platform is not improving and Google’s Project Loon has finally got approval for pilot projects. TechCrunch reports that the WhatsApp ban is only the tip of the iceberg: Brazil is facing a widespread legislative drive to limit large swathes of social media content, and increase the government’s ability to spy on citizens. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.” WhatsApp is used by roughly 90% of Brazil’s internet population, TechCrunch said, and the BBC reported that prices for telecom services are often as high as they are in the UK, even though Brazilian wages are about two-thirds lower. The case is sealed and the court would not provide further information, but Brazilian media say prosecutors are seeking access to messages exchanged on WhatsApp by the accused.

For its part, Telegram says that it prefers “natural growth [over] such spikes,” and it’s doing its best to welcome new users to the service and get them acclimated. For instance, an anti-terrorism bill – which has already passed through the House of Representatives and onto the Senate – threatens the right to social movements and protests. This means that many choose to keep in touch with friends and family via internet messaging services, rather than pricier voice calls or text messages. Demand for Telegram in Brazil has been so overwhelming, in fact, that the company can’t send out account-verifying SMS codes fast enough to get everyone on board. Another bill that is labeled the Big Spy (“O Espião”) by critics would allow politicians to censor social media, and would require American tehcnology ocmpanies like Facebook and Google to provide police with access to their data, under court orders.

There is no love lost between WhatsApp and the big telcos, who see it as an Uber-like intruder that doesn’t play by the rules, not paying the same taxes or fees they do. Last week, the TRAI released a consultation paper on zero-rating (which we broke down for you here ), that invited responses from key stakeholders aka telecom operators and the general public by December 30. This is despite the landmark Bill of Rights approved by President Dilma Rousseff last year, which promises to protect digital free speech, net neutrality and privacy on the web. The last time that WhatsApp had a major outage, Telegram actually added 5 million users as a direct result, so today’s developments just cement Telegram’s position as the world’s second favorite messaging client. WhatsApp shaved the amount of time Brazilians spent calling people on their phones to 111 minutes a month from 132 minutes, between 2014 and 2015, according to research by Teleco, a consulting firm.

Indian users who log on Facebook today are getting notifications from their friends urging them to send a message to TRAI, India’s telecom regulator, “in support of digital equality in India.” The social network also had a justification to offer for the campaign. Facebook wasn’t immediately available for comment on what it was doing to restore service to Brazil, but Zuckerberg said in his statement: “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. An official response from a Facebook spokesperson justified the campaign by saying : “Hundreds of millions of people in India use the Internet every day and understand the benefits it can bring. Telegram had 62 million monthly active users back in May of this year, less than a tenth of WhatsApp’s 800 million, and its present unplanned expansion is sure to bump that number up significantly.

It also offers a calling service that works on a data plan, making it far cheaper than carrier-based voice calls; low-income Brazilians use, or used, it for nearly all of their communications. Until then, Facebook Messenger is still active and you can use it to communicate instead,” he wrote adding the hashtags ‘connectBrazil’ and ‘ConnectTheWorld’. Amos Genish, president of Vivo, the largest cellphone carrier on the market, called WhatsApp “pure piracy” and “a provider without a licence” in a speech in August. “They use our [telephone] numbers to send free messages,” he complained, noting that Vivo pays a fee per active number.

The company began to post pleading tweets, saying they had “all hands on deck to accommodate the crazy load” and for new Brazilian users to be patient while they waited for sign-up codes via text message.

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