WhatsApp suspended for 72 hours after court ruling

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The failure of WhatsApp to hand over certain information regarding a criminal investigation in Brazil has resulted in the judge ordering access to WhatsApp to be suspended for 72 hours in the South American country.

Because Facebook, who owns WhatsApp, failed to hand over the information that had been requested, Marcel Montalvao issued the order for all five of the major mobile operators in Brazil to block access to the service.

WhatsApp is hugely popular worldwide, but especially so in Brazil, with more than 100 million users there. This figure represents around half of the country’s population, as well as 91 per cent of mobile users in Brazil, it has been estimated. The cost of making phone calls and sending texts is very high in South America’s largest country, which has helped increase the popularity of the free messaging service.

Despite being penalised for failing to hand over the requested information, WhatsApp maintains that it has done all it could to cooperate with the authorities, expressing that the company had been left “disappointed at the decision”.

The co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, wrote on Facebook, criticising the ruling.

In a separate case last December, the messaging service was blocked for 48 hours for failing to cooperate in another investigation, although the ruling was overturned so the outage only lasted 12 hours. The order to suspend the service was given by the same judge who made this latest ruling, before a different judge overruled it because it was “not reasonable that millions of users be affected by the inertia of the company.”

Update: After a short service outage, judge Ricardo Mucio Santana de Abreu Lima overruled the decision to suspend WhatsApp, and ordered the phone operators to restore the free messaging service immediately.