Brazilian judge ends 72-hour suspension of WhatsApp

Brazilian judge overturns the 72-hour suspension of Facebook Inc's WhatsApp messenger following an appeal from WhatsApp's lawyers.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Brazil previously shut down the app and arrested senior Facebook representatives in an attempt to extract information.

A Brazilian judge on Tuesday overturned a suspension of Facebook Inc's WhatsApp messaging application that affected some 100 million users, after many people voiced frustration at the second such freeze in five months in the South American country.

On Monday, a judge in the northeastern state of Sergipe had ordered Brazil's five main wireless operators to block access to WhatsApp for 72 hours. The reason for the order was not made public due to legal secrecy in an ongoing case before the state court.

However, a different judge from the state tribunal intervened to cancel Monday's ruling following an appeal from WhatsApp's lawyers, the court said in a statement.

The judge who ordered the suspension, Marcel Maia Montalvao, in March ordered the imprisonment of a Brazil-based Facebook executive in a dispute over law enforcement demands for data from the company's encrypted messaging service for use in a drug trafficking investigation.

The executive was freed after about 24 hours, when an appeals court overturned his arrest.

WhatsApp had said in a statement on Monday that it was "disappointed" at the judge's decision to suspend its services, saying it had done the utmost to cooperate with Brazilian tribunals but it did not possess the information the court was requesting.

The company has said in the past that it does not store encrypted information from WhatsApp messages.

The incident comes as technology companies face mounting pressure from governments around the world to help them eavesdrop on users and censor data.

The suspension of WhatsApp services had frustrated many in Brazil, where more than three quarters of mobile phone subscribers use the app.

"It was an invasive measure," said Mariana Pepeu, a 23-year-old student in Rio de Janeiro. "But the laws for the Internet are very recent and they are still being written (in Brazil)."

TRTWorld, Reuters