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Judge Bans WhatsApp in Brazil and Says He Wants App to Contribute with Police

02/26/2015 - 09h59

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FELIPE MAIA
ASSISTANT EDITOR OF "BUSINESS/TEC"

Judge Luiz de Moura Correia, from the state of Piauí, has ordered the mobile app WhatsApp to be suspended in Brazil.

He has declared that the aim of the decision is to demand the company that owns the app to contribute with the State Police in investigations.
 
WhatsApp is allegedly not helping in investigations that date back to 2013 and which may be linked to crimes against children and teenagers - the judge does not confirm the kind of crimes, which in he claims to be "severe".

"If they weren't, I wouldn't have made this decision", Moura said to Folha.

Correia demanded that the internet and mobile connection providers suspend the use of the app, like telephone operators.

The reason, according to the lawyer, is that the company has denied to comply with police "diligence", which means that the investigations come to a halt.

The crimes are under investigation by the Police Station for the Protection of Children and Teenagers in Teresina, capital of Piauí.

The magistrate gives an example of what the authorities could be asking for. "Until very recently we made phone interceptions, but nowadays nobody uses the phone [to speak], they only use WhatsApp. So that we can know what criminals have said, where they are, it is only by monitoring mobile apps", he says.

He also says that the decision to request the ban to telecommunication companies, instead of to the American company, was carried out after WhatsApp denied to share this type of information, supposedly saying it did not need to comply with Brazilian law because it does not have an office in the country.

Facebook, which bought the messaging service last year, said it would not speak about the issue because the companies work independently. The social network is not legally responsible for the messaging service.

"On paper, they are independent companies", lawyer Gisele Arantes, a digital law specialist, said.

Telecomm companies have been notified, but they have not suggested what measures will be taken. The app worked as normal on Wednesday (25).

According to Moura, there was a meeting on Wednesday (25) with corporate lawyers to discuss the matter - he did not say who nor which industry sector they represented.

"What I have put forward is that if WhatsApp met the diligence and supplied information, [the ban] would be automatically suspended."

SindiTelebrasil, the association that represents telephone operators, said on a press release that the measure is "disproportionate", "because, in order to get information from a small number of people, which was in turn denied by the owner of Whatsapp, the judge decided to suspend the service across the entire country".

The institution also says that telecomm companies "don't have anything to do with the service".

Questioned if he uses the messaging app, as 700 million people around the world do, Moura changed the subject. "Let's leave this answer to the end of the lawsuit."

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

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