WhatsApp has been blocked across Brazil for the next 72 hours in accordance with a state judge’s order. The service is estimated to have about 100 million users in the country.
The ruling came into effect at 1PM ET, with a warning to service providers that failure to comply with the order would invite a fine of $142,000 per day.
Today’s blackout comes courtesy of judge Marcel Maia Montalvão, who previously ordered Facebook’s vice president for Latin America to be detained in Sao Paulo because WhatsApp (which the social network owns) repeated failure to comply with judicial demands to hand over private data.
According to Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, today’s WhatsApp block is part of the same case. Making matters worse is the fact that the service recently enabled end-to-encryption for text, image and voice messages, meaning that the company wouldn’t be able to access any correspondence between users.
WhatsApp was previously shut down in Brazil only months ago. Last December, a court ordered a blackout of the service after an injunction against the messaging service from an unnamed third party.
However, last time around, the Sao Paolo high court restored access to WhatsApp after just 12 hours, saying that, “in light of constitutional principles, does not seem reasonable that millions of users are affected due to the inertia of the company.”
Where’s that kind of level-headed thinking now?
Update: WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum said in a Facebook post:
Yet again millions of innocent Brazilians are being punished because a court wants WhatsApp to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have. Not only do we encrypt messages end-to-end on WhatsApp to keep people’s information safe and secure, we also don’t keep your chat history on our servers. When you send an end-to-end encrypted message, no one else can read it – not even us. While we are working to get WhatsApp back up and running as soon as possible, we have no intention of compromising the security of our billion users around the world.
Update 2:17 PM ET: And it’s back! A judge has ruled to unban the service, and users are reporting the messaging app is resuming normal functionality.