Brazil court blocks Whatsapp nationwide

By Senabri Silvestre

SANTO DOMINGO. Dom. Rep. (AA) – Approximately 100 million Brazilians have been left without WhapsApp after a judge ordered mobile phone companies to block the popular messaging service nationwide for 72 hours.

The measure was taken Monday against service providers for refusing to provide information requested by authorities about texts sent via the platform by suspects linked to drug trafficking.

But WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said in a statement that it does not have the information requested.

“After having cooperated in the extent of our ability with the Brazilian courts we are disappointed with the judge’s decision, which punishes more than 100 million Brazilians who depend on our services to communicate, manage their business and more,” it said.

Joao Rezende, president of the National Telecomunication Agency considered the measure disproportionate.

“WhatsApp has to comply with judicial decisions within the technical conditions that they have, but obviously, blocking the service is not the answer,” he said.

Five telephone operators companies confirmed they received the court order that states that failure to comply would mean fines of R$500,000 ($144,341).

The service was turned off at 2 p.m. local time (17.00 GMT).

The ruling Monday was the second in the series of legal battles between Brazilian authorities and Facebook. In March the company’s top representative for Latin America was detained overnight after authorities said the company failed to comply with an order to turn over information regarding Whatapp users linked to a probe of organized crime and drug related activities.

It is the second time WhatsApp has been blocked in the South American country in the past six months.

In December, a judge in the Sao Paulo metro region area ordered the messaging service to be blocked for 48 hours for a criminal investigation which was not disclosed.

The court decision is forcing Whatsapp users to jump to rival Telegram.

By Monday evening, Telegram said the company had received more than 1 million new registrations.