ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

The decision to pull the metaphorical plug on Brazil's favored form of messaging, WhatsApp, has backfired. Although a court order was passed which allowed telecommunications companies to block access for 48 hours, the decision was overruled.

Brazilians couldn't access WhatsApp for 12 hours
Brazilians couldn't access WhatsApp for 12 hours

The order was originally passed following an unnamed petitioner (*cough* a phone company, probably *cough*) filing for an injunction. Judge Xavier de Souza of São Paulo overruled the decision after 12 hours, stating that it was:

“[It is] not reasonable that millions of users be affected by the inertia of the company.”

"A Short Sighted Decision"

Instead of continuing the ban, the judge decided to fine WhatsApp (they'll surely get the message now, right?) CEO Jan Koum was disappointed with the original approach. He said:

“[The company was] 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”

With some of the highest phone plan prices in the world, 93% (around 100 million) of Brazilians turn to WhatsApp to save money. Telecommunications companies have been trying to get the App banned for a number of months due to them skirting standard regulations.

"A Sad Day For Brazil"

Zuckerbeg was 'stunned' by the decision
Zuckerbeg was 'stunned' by the decision

WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook in a $19m deal in 2014. Mark Zuckerberg was less than impressed with the decision to ban the App in the country. In a statement, (that conveniently pointed out Facebook messenger still worked) he said:

"This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open Internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.
I am stunned that our efforts to protect people's data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp."

Enemy of the State

The original shutdown allegedly stems from one of the country's top drug traffickers using WhatsApp as a tool to carry out crimes. Whether or not this should deprive law abiding citizens is another matter.

The ease at which, with a switch of an (assumedly) electronic button, access to such popular and important Apps could be blocked is disconcerting; could Governments find an excuse, eventually, to shut down free messenger apps? If so, there's nothing we could do about it.

Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State
Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State

In the classic Will Smith movie Enemy of the State, counter-terrorism measures result in increased surveillance, utilizing technology to snoop on citizens. If Governments had their way it could become a reality. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, wants to ban WhatsApp and iMessage.

Either way, the recent decision serves as a reminder that we shouldn't take access to social media for granted.

Source: BuzzFeed News


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