WhatsApp restored in Brazil after temporary ban

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A day without WhatsApp dawns for Brazil – and then ends.

RIO DE JANEIRO: A Brazilian judge on Thursday ordered the lifting of a 48-hour suspension of the services in Brazil of Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp phone-messaging application, overturning an order from a lower court.The ban, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday, lasted about 12 hours until an appeals court judge overturned it.The site, which is owned by Facebook, “should publicly require a warrant before turning over user content…[and] have a stronger policy of informing users of government requests,” the watchdog noted, while commending it for Facebook’s position opposing so-called backdoors that allow government agencies to bypass normal encryption processes to access users’ data.PARIS: French telecommunications operator Orange has been fined 350 million euros ($380m) for breaching competition rules in the corporate market, the French competition regulator said on Thursday. The interruption of WhatsApp’s text message and Internet telephone service caused outrage in Latin America’s largest country, where the company estimates it has 100 million personal users, and led to angry exchanges on the floor of Congress.

Brazilians had joined in black humor and outrage and tech giants expressed worry over the state’s heavy hand Thursday after a judge banned the service for 48 hours. The original judicial order came as part of a law enforcement investigation in which Facebook Brazil was ordered to put a wiretap on certain WhatsApp accounts, according to the company. The fine, the biggest the regulator has ever slapped on an individual company, comes after competitors Bouygues Telecom and SFR complained that Orange had been hindering free competition in the business market for fixed and mobile phones since the early 2000s, the authority said. WhatsApp is installed on 92.5 percent of Android devices in Brazil, making it the most installed app in the country, according to SimilarWeb, an internet intelligence and marketing company. WhatsApp can’t do that because it doesn’t store messages sent on its service, and it encrypts all messages so that no one can intercept or read them.

—AFP LONDON: British clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer is to open its first store in Beijing on Friday, part of its strategy in China to focus on flagship stores in the largest cities, while expanding online. The new 1,500 square metre store, located at The Place shopping mall, would sell edited collections of womenswear, menswear, and kidswear as well as 1,200 food and drink products. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had described this as a “sad day for Brazil,” celebrated the decision. “Your voices have been heard and the block has been lifted,” he posted on Facebook.—Reuters SAO PAULO: The popular WhatsApp smartphone messaging application came back to life Thursday in Brazil as a court threw out a two-day suspension that had infuriated millions of users.

A judge in Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo, had ordered the suspension of WhatsApp’s services from midnight on Wednesday (0200 GMT Thursday). The ban comes amid a global debate about whether social media companies should be required to turn over data to government agencies and law enforcement during a criminal investigation, and how they comply with such requests. The judge’s ban may have violated Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet, a landmark Internet bill of rights passed in 2014 that includes net neutrality provisions and says websites are not responsible for content from third-party providers. “This is really shocking, and illegal,” Ronaldo Lemos, the director of the Institute for Technology and Society of Rio de Janeiro told The Wall Street Journal. “What puzzles me is that one single court can exercise that kind of power, and that the telecommunications companies didn’t fight against it. It shows how fragile the Brazilian Internet is.” The telecom companies — which have long grumbled that WhatsApp eats into their profits because the service offers free calls — didn’t seem overly troubled by the ruling, with only one of Brazil’s four biggest firms, Oi, contesting the ban, the Guardian reports. With users left scrambling after the ban was announced, rival services appear to have benefited; the secure messaging service Telegram said it attracted more than a million new users during the outage. “I went crazy when they canceled WhatsApp, because I wasn’t able to contact my girlfriends or my family,” Wellington de Souza, 25, who works in a Japanese restaurant in São Paulo, told the Journal. “Only now when I was without WhatsApp I realized that I’m addicted.

WhatsApp creator Jan Koum, who had lamented the ban, celebrated the service’s restoration. “This is a victory for the Brazilian people, and we’re glad that your voices were heard loud and clear by people who represent them,” he wrote on Facebook. It’s impossible to live without [it].” Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s founder, and Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg condemned the ban early Thursday, with Mr.

The service had 900 million monthly users is also popular across the Middle East, where it has largely eclipsed the once-indispensable BlackBerry Messenger service. Zuckerberg saying that “Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open Internet.” “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,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Where was Zuckerberg’s statement when China blocked Instagram, another property owned by Facebook? WhatsApp first exploded in Brazil’s numerous favelas and low-income communities, where it is called “sap sap,” as 3G services become more available. Despite having a strong following in mainland China, it was rendered inaccessible in November 2014, right around the time of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement,” wrote Quartz’s Josh Horowitz, referencing a widespread protest against Hong Kong’s government that was condemned by government officials in Beijing as “illegal.” Mr. Horowitz notes Zuckerberg has met several times with Lu Wei, China’s so-called Internet czar, whose hardline policy stances have made him a controversial figure.

Some Brazilians complained that flirting opportunities had been reduced, or linked the block to a political crisis threatening President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing impeachment proceedings. Lu’s leadership, China has employed the “Great Cannon,” a tool that was used in several distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the web-hosting service GitHub in March, according to CitizenLab, a research group based at the University of Toronto. Earlier this month, Lu said China had no plans to stop blocking foreign websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, despite Zuckerberg’s efforts to get the country’s leaders to change their minds, including learning Mandarin. “I can’t change you, but I have the right to choose my friends,” Lu said at a news conference in Washington on December 9, CNN reports. “We don’t welcome those who come to China to make money while smearing China,” he said, adding, “It’s like a family who doesn’t welcome unfriendly people into their house as guests.” Facebook’s annual transparency report reveals that some countries that have actively embraced collaborations with the social media site have also successfully lobbied for content-blocking of posts that violate local laws.

India, for example, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Silicon Valley in September, tripled the number of posts it requested be blocked in the first half of 2015, to more than 15,000. The country is one of the largest markets for social media sites outside of the US, with the WhatsApp ban drawing ire from lawmakers in the country’s Congress, Reuters reports.

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