A Brazilian court on Tuesday ordered yet another shutdown of the popular messaging app Whatsapp, shutting off service to more than 100 million people in the Latin American country.
The President of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski, lifted the ban just four hours later, calling the lower court's actions "disproportionate."
Brazil's courts claim that WhatsApp has failed to cooperate in providing investigators with information relating to a criminal court case. This is the third time in a year that the service has been shut down in Brazil as part of this feud — both times have seen higher courts lift the bans put in place by lower courts.
In the latest decision, Judge Daniela Barbosa de Souza criticized WhatsApp's behavior, saying she was stunned by a request from the company that the court's decision be published in English, saying that meant that Facebook was "treating the country as a "banana republic.'"
Whatsapp spokesperson Anne Yeh told BuzzFeed News in an emailed statement: “We're working to get WhatsApp back online in Brazil. It's shocking that less than two months after Brazilian people and lawmakers loudly rejected blocks of services like WhatsApp, history is repeating itself. As before, millions of people are cut off from friends, loved ones, customers, and colleagues today, simply because we are being asked for information we don't have.”
Following the Supreme Court stepping in, Yeh said that WhatsApp is "pleased" by Lewandowski's action. "In his decision, the chief justice stressed how people from across Brazil, including members of the judiciary, rely on WhatsApp to communicate with others every day, and that they bear the greatest burden when a service is blocked," she wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News.
In issuing the injunction on behalf of the Popular Socialist Party of Brazil, Lewandowski said that the ruling from de Souza struck at the heart of the freedom of communication. The case in which the decision was ordered, over the authorities' access to encrypted data when investigating crimes, is still ongoing.
The now suspended decision ordered Brazil's telecommunications companies to block access to WhatsApp — the service will only be suspended once all telecoms operators have been notified. It also set a fine of 50,000 Brazilian real (US $15278) per day for as long as Facebook does not comply with the court's request for information.
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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