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Brazilian Judge Shuts Down WhatsApp In Brazil 134

New submitter rafaelj writes: Apparently, Tim Berners Lee was not aware of the real impact on internet freedom in Brazil when he supported the Marco Civil to pass in the Brazilian congress last year. Using the Brazilian Civil "Rights" Framework, a minor Brazilian court ordered WhatsApp service to be suspended in the whole country after WhatsApp refused to provide user's data. The order was happily accomplished by the Brazilian mobile phone companies as they have been lobbying to convince the government to regulate the service in Brazil since their profits are decreasing steadily after Brazilians started using WhastsApp instead of (tolled) SMS and phone calls. Brazil has the most expensive cell phone rates on the planet. Adds readers André Costa: The ban is a result of WhatsApp failing to comply with two previous court orders, on July 23 and August 7. Even though [the ban] affects millions of users, the service of course remains accessible through Wi-Fi. The plaintiff's identity is being kept secret. The news has already spread worldwide). The ban on WhatsApp resulted in more than 1.5 million users joining its competitor Telegram.
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Brazilian Judge Shuts Down WhatsApp In Brazil

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  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:19AM (#51136599) Homepage

    The connection between blocking the internet and the Marco Civil da Internet (in English: "Civil Rights Framework for the Internet") stated in the summary is not clear in the actual articles linked.

    The gizmodo article linked in the summary [gizmodo.com] states: Under the Marco Civil da Internet — Civil Rights Framework for the Internet — approved in April 2014, which includes full-blown net neutrality, this kind of denial of service is illegal. Even before the regulation took effect, it was not considered kosher, which is why previous block orders were overturned before taking effect.

    That seems to state the opposite of what it stated in the summary.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It has nothing to do with "Marco Civil"...

      A judge (one single judge) ordered the shutdown of Whatsapp because Facebook wasn't complying with a court order for providing information on an account owned by a criminal already convicted at a lower level court.

    • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:45AM (#51136791)

      Actually, according to that article, the reason WhatsApp was shut down was because they didn't even bother to respond, not because they refused:

      Because WhatsApp did not respond to a court order of July 23, 2015, on August 7, 2015, the company was again notified, with there being a fixed penalty in case of non-compliance. As yet the company did not attend the court order, the prosecution requested the blocking of services for a period of 48 hours, based on the law [], which was granted by Judge Sandra Regina Nostre Marques

      It sounds like what my old DI's used to say: "Yes sir? No sir? F*** you sir? Say something!"

      • I think there is never a reason to talk to a government. They can do shit of-course, they can come in with guns, with everything, I still think there is never a reason to talk to a government. I think everybody should avoid all government cooperation, I think everybody should stop paying taxes completely. I think all governments need to be abolished and eventually will become obsolete in our new global environment and we should speed up that process.

        • While I acknowledge that you have consistent views on government that I don't agree with, I suggest that there are practical considerations here that make it often wise to talk to governments.

  • Don't think for a moment that this will be something happening in Brazil alone. Now authorities in France are pointing the finger at both WhatsApp and Telegram [cnn.com] as providing a means for the attackers there to communicate.

    [sarcasm]If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.[/sarcasm]

  • It seems to me that Brazil is trying to follow China's example, but without a "great firewall"? How will they enforce this? Was this action sponsored by Cisco?
    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      Oh please. Show me an example of a company like Facebook/Google/Twitter refusing to give an American court user data... still not found any? And what exactly would happen if they didn't: criminal charges for senior executives and fines so big it'd blow our minds.
  • > the service of course remains accessible through Wi-Fi.

    Wrong. The service is only available in Brazil if you use VPN or if your multinational company's internet goes trough an overseas firewall.
    • Since it is the cell phone carriers that are blocking the app (probably by blocking the port(s) that the app communicates on), of course this is still available through wifi because the carriers don't control the wifi access points of everyone in Brazil.
      • All internet providers in Brazil started blocking Whatsapp (I don't know why). It's back online now, because another judge got it to revoke the other judge's decision. Welcome to Brazil, I guess.
      • sounds like Whatsapp needs to start having per-client port jumping built-in.
  • Brazilian here. This country is a dump.
  • Not that I'd want to use WhatsApp anyway, but what's stopping the end-user from routing around the damaged portion of the network?

  • I use whatsapp only on tablets, with the help of a dozen empty simcards on a second-hand phone I bought for a buck on eBay.
    I do it that way for all the sites sending SMS verifications for signing app.
    Together with the VPN there's not much data any court can get that way.

  • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @10:41AM (#51136747)

    This article shows the sad state of the internet. Why are most people not using standard internet protocols for communication? They talk about how people can't chat because WhatsApp is down. Why are people not using standard XMPP apps which could be switched among providers? Why are people not using standard VOIP services that can be switched among providers?
    Why do people keep migrating to these crappy proprietary solutions?

    • Apparently because the average end-user can't be bothered to use something that actually requires a modicum of knowledge about how the service operates.

      I asked in another post why the users aren't just routing around the damaged network with a VPN, and the answer was that it's too hard. So if the lowest common denominators using WhatsApp can't even figure out how to do something as simple as connecting to a VPN, they'd never be able to understand something like XMPP or VOIP. Life is hard.

      I've always used

      • Actually, lots of users have installed VPN apps minutes after the blocking take place, despite not knowing what VPN stands for.
      • And what about the VPN's monthly bill? Or alternatively, VPN provider spying on you.

        And do you know how to enable a VPN on a random touchscreen cell phone?, with ten different Android versions and a few different crappy GUIs.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Users switched from WhatsApp to Telegram. If they switched to Pablo's XMPP Server instead, it would not solve the problem. The protocol is insignificant in their choices. It is about where their friends/family are. When Pablo gets greedy and starts sending out too many adds and mandating strange policies, they can switch to Juana's XMPP. When Juana gets shut down for legal reasons, they would need to switch again.

    • Why would that make a difference? If your XMPP provider is blocked by your telco, then you're still out of luck. You can't simply move between servers at will, XMPP doesn't work like that because your server name is encoded in your identity. And anyway, WhatsApp uses XMPP under the hood (or used to) - it's essentially just a really big provider.

    • Does the protocol have anything to do with this? Apparently, WhatsApp is blocked at the IP level.

      Also, remember that your crappy proprietary solution is somebody else's good UI. Relatively few people buy things on the grounds of standards conformance and whether the software is proprietary or free.

  • Looks like Brazil's telecoms need to join the 21st century and stop charging to send tiny bits of data around.

    If they can't survive without this particular revenue, surely they can find revenue elsewhere? The US telecoms have had no problem thriving after they stopped charging for SMS, minutes and long distance! They just ream us on data now, which, although it sucks, is a hell of a lot better than paying 10 cents per text message.

    • by dafradu ( 868234 )

      Depending of the plan you get unlimited SMS. Cheaper plans from my operator gets me unlimited SMS inside its network, and 500 SMSs to other networks.

  • The articles mention that a judge ordered the shutdown because Whatsapp didn't provide customer data for a court case. Is Whatsapp refusing to provide the data for some reason or is Whatsapp not able to provide the data (i.e. doesn't have it or it is encrypted in a way that they cannot decrypt)?

    • The judge requested twice for data relevant to a criminal case and WhatsApp (Facebook) ignored it. Apparently it is related to a group of bank robbers.
      • That is in the articles but is not an answer to my question. I've found a few other articles but the reporting is very lazy.
        What, _exactly_, was the court demanding?
        Is WhatsApp choosing not to comply?
        Is WhatsApp unable to comply (for whatever reason)?

    • Simple. Follow the money.

      Brazil's government is fairly notorious for using onerous regulation, taxes, and tarrifs to prop up their local corporations, at the expense of international competition. This isn't even the first time they've gone after WhatsApp. Over the years, they've also tried to double-tax out-of-country internet services such as Netflix, Google, and Facebook, or to extort them into opening local subsidiaries; with varying degrees of success. Amazon eventually wound up having to give them

  • "A Brazilian state judge ordered the suspension of Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp throughout Brazil for 48 hours early Thursday, disrupting the lives of tens of millions of Brazilians who use the messaging service."
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/br... [wsj.com]

    I would guess that tens of millions of Brazilians are going to have something to say about this the next time they vote.

  • Already overruled.
    http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/m... [uol.com.br]

    A higher level judge ordered the ban to be lifted, stating (google translate, just being lazy...):
    "in light of constitutional principles, it does not seem reasonable that millions of users be affected as a result of the company's inertia in providing information for the justice"
    "You can always, respected the conviction of the authority identified as constraining, raise the amount of the fine to a sufficient level to inhibit any resistance"

    It's a bad ru

    • by Gamasta ( 557555 )

      My brazilian chat channels are very active right now. So I can confirm that WhatsApp is working again in Brazil.

  • Sounds to me like the Brazilian telecom companies that were so happy to shut down the service may have had some part in constructing the ultimatum demand for user data that led to that action. I don't think we are looking at a judicial ruling on civil rights / privacy here so much as an orchestrated power move to maintain a monopoly.
  • it's over (Score:4, Informative)

    by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @12:57PM (#51137823)

    That didn't last long -

    "Brazil judge lifts WhatsApp suspension"
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-... [bbc.com]

  • Now where have I heard that before and people claimed it was impossible?

  • Tim invented the World Wide Web(web pages) which is part of the internet not the whole thing.
  • Like many, I am violently opposed to warrant-less wiretapping. That is NOT what is happening in this case. This is the case of an arrogant internet company assuming that they are above the law. Smuckerbag may have a gazillion dollars but society has never granted upon him the honor and duty that is granted to judges. He should learn his place which is below the law like the rest of us.
  • Unfortunately, a lot of legislation nominally intended to "help the people" or "ensure civil rights" has other consequences, sometimes intended, sometimes not. Some of those consequences are part of the original drafting, others get added at the last minute, often subverting the stated intent of the legislation. It often only takes adding one sentence or changing a couple of words to completely derail or reverse legislation.

    Passing new legislation for any purpose, however noble, is like a high wire act with

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer