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Brazilian courts order WhatsApp blackout, change course hours later

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A Brazilian judge ordered an indefinite blackout of the WhatsApp messaging service on Tuesday, only to be overturned within hours by the country's supreme court. First reported by O Globo, the order comes after temporary blackouts issued in December and May, both of which were overturned by higher courts in a matter of days.

Unlike previous orders, today’s blackout had no set expiration period, and was intended to continue until the company complies with a previously issued request for WhatsApp messages related to an ongoing investigation. WhatsApp’s lawyers have argued in court that the company does not have access to the requested data and is unable to comply with the request. WhatsApp began rolling out end-to-end encryption in November 2014, blocking company access to WhatsApp conversations.

The blackout order specifically targeted Brazil’s five wireless carriers, rather than WhatsApp itself or its parent company Facebook. The carriers were ordered not to carry any data for WhatsApp, and will be subject to daily fines of 50,000 real if they are found violating the order.

Reached by The Verge, WhatsApp criticized the initial order as overbroad. "Indiscriminate steps like these threaten people's ability to communicate, to run their businesses, and to live their lives," a spokesperson said. "As we've said in the past, we cannot share information we don't have access to. We hope to see this block lifted as soon as possible."

Update 1:27PM ET: Updated with WhatsApp statement

Update 4:52PM ET: Updated with the news that the order has been overturned