Access to the Whatsapp messenger is being cut-off for 48 hours in Brazil. The unprecedented blockage was to implement a Sao Paulo state court order and was to take effect at 0200 GMT Thursday.
The block is a punishment for WhatsApp’s refusal to communicate with the court over a criminal case. According to a statement put out by the 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. As yet the company did not attend the court order, the prosecution requested the blocking of services for a period of 48 hours, based on the law […], which was granted by Judge Sandra Regina Nostre Marques.”
Most details of the case are being kept secret by the judge, as is allowed under Brazilian law. However, according to the 24-hour Band News TV network, the case involves a drug trafficker linked either with PCC or First Command of the Capital, which is one of Sao Paulo’s biggest and most dangerous criminal gangs. The trafficker allegedly used WhatsApp’s services in the commission of crimes.
“We are disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many Brazilians have come to depend on, and sad to see Brazil isolate itself from the rest of the world,” said Jan Koum, chief executive of WhatsApp, in response to the blockage.
WhatsApp is the most popular and used form of communication in Brazil. It is the number-one most used app in the country, with about 45 million users in the country. This means that about 93 percent of the Brazilian population use WhatsApp. Many consider this decision as part of the propaganda by Brazilian cellular companies, as many are lobbying against WhatsApp for taking away their SMS and voice calling business.