Brazil has lifted a temporary ban on WhatsApp, one day after a court in São Paulo ordered telecoms to block the popular messaging service for failing to comply with an order related to a criminal case. In an decision handed down today, Judge Xavier de Souza, who did not issue the original injunction, said "it does not seem reasonable that millions of users are affected" by the company's failure to provide information to the court, and ordered that the ban be lifted. He recommended that a higher fine be imposed against the company, which failed to comply with two court orders pertaining to the case.
The ban went into effect at midnight local time on Thursday, and was due to last for 48 hours. The Facebook-owned app is immensely popular in Brazil, where more than 100 million people use it as a free messaging alternative to expensive mobile plans. Brazilian telecoms have urged the government to crack down on WhatsApp, arguing that its free voice call service is unregulated and illegal, though officials have yet to implement new regulations.
The temporary ban forced many in Brazil to seek out alternatives such as Telegram, which saw an influx of 1.5 million new users in the hours following the injunction. Users in Chile and Argentina were also affected by the block. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized the injunction in a post published Wednesday night, noting that Facebook Messenger remained available and urging his followers to voice their discontent online.
"This is a sad day for Brazil," Zuckerberg wrote. "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."
Citing local media, Reuters reports that the criminal case involved a drug trafficker with connections to a notorious São Paulo gang. The suspect allegedly used WhatsApp to commit crimes.