Whatsapp has yet again got into trouble with Brazil court authorities. According to a new court order, Whatsapp will be blocked for 72 hours in the country as it failed to provide access to chat records demanded by a court. Judge Marcel Montalvao, from the northeastern state of Sergipe, ordered phone companies to block access to Whatsapp in a statement posted on court’s website.
The court had asked Whatsapp to provide access to chat records for a drug investigation. However, Whatsapp expressed its inability to do so as it could not access records in unencrypted form.
Phone companies in Brazil will have to pay a hefty fine of 500,000 reais ($143,000) a day if they failed to cut off Whatsapp service.
In a statement issued after the court order came out, Whatsapp said,
After cooperating to the full extent of our ability with the local courts, we are disappointed a judge in Sergipe decided yet again to order the block of WhatsApp in Brazil.
It further added,
This decision punishes more than 100 million Brazilians who rely on our service to communicate, run their businesses, and more, in order to force us to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have.
Last year in December, Whatsapp had faced a similar issue when it was ordered to be blocked for 48 hours as it had refused to comply with a court order. Although the order was taken back within 12 hours, the social media outrage it caused was a testimony to the popularity of Whatsapp in the Latin American country which boasts of over 100 million users.
In fact, over 93% of internet using population in Brazil use Whatsapp for their day-to-day communication, partly due to the highly expensive call rate in Brazil which is almost 3 times as expensive as US and 5 times that of Spain.
On the other hand, Whatsapp’s rival Telegram is once again seeing a spike in downloads and install of its app following the ban on Whatsapp.
Since Telegram as been offering encryption to messages from the beginning (something which Whatsapp began only recently), Telegram is able to comply with any court order demanding access to chat records.
Last time also, Telegram claimed to have gained as many as 1 million users in a day when Whatsapp was banned. This time, within an hour after ban got effective, Telegram began trending over Twitter in Brazil.
Another popular VPN service called Hotspot Shield witnessed 82,000 new installations of its VPN in Brazil during the first hour of the block.