A Brazilian court had attempted to impose a two-day ban of messaging app WhatsApp as punishment for parent company Facebook not complying with a court-ordered police request for information. Facebook countered that the use of encryption made the data requested inaccessible, a choice that CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended in a post: “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."
Zuckerberg was far from alone in his sentiments. Just as #Nessas48HorasEuVou (#Inthese48hoursIwill) and its accompanying suggestions for finding ways to pass the time became Twitter’s latest trend, a second judge stepped in. Judge Xavier de Souza reinstated the service only hours after the ban began, suggesting a fine as a more appropriate way to address the situation, as it was “not reasonable that millions of users be affected by the inertia of the company."
This is one story that summarizes the current state of the Internet quite well:
- Even the strongest Internet law is penetrable: Marco Civil, Brazil’s Internet law, was passed in 2014 amidst praise for its capacity to protect online rights. An unannounced, nearly unexplained interruption of a communication service utilized by half of Brazil’s total population that disrupted everyday users more than WhatsApp itself is certainly a violation of the very rights Marco Civil purports to protect.
- There is strength in numbers: Judge de Souza’s argument for bringing WhatsApp back boiled down to one simple argument: everyone is on it.
- Communication knows no country lines: The unusually high cost of services provided by Brazil’s telecom companies initially prompted millions of Brazilians to turn to WhatsApp, a foreign, low-cost alternative. If last week's brief outage was an attempt to get Brazilians to communicate the old-fashioned way, the takeaway is this: during the outage, Brazilians were at a loss for what to do with themselves—until they remembered that alternatives exist. Foreign-based services such as Telegram and SumRando Messenger were able to affordably fill a void that national services simply could not.
Want to know more about government infringements of citizens' rights? Read on!
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