CPJ alarmed by WhatsApp block in Brazil

New York, May 2, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by a judicial order to block WhatsApp in Brazil for 72 hours. A judge ordered telecommunications companies to block the messaging application as of 2 p.m. local time today for failing to turn over data in a criminal investigation, according to press reports.

“Journalists in Brazil regularly rely on WhatsApp for their reporting,” said CPJ Technology Program Coordinator Geoffrey King. “Blocking access to such a widely used platform is an overreach that violates the open nature of the Internet and disproportionally damages the free flow of information.”

The block will disrupt the work of journalists who frequently use the platform to communicate with sources, according to CPJ research. This is not the first time that the 100 million Brazilians who regularly use the service have had to go without it. In December 2015, the platform was blocked for 12 hours for failing to turn over information in an unrelated criminal investigation. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, told The New York Times that it was technically unable to comply with the order because of its encryption technology.

In March, the same judge in the state of Sergipe who issued today’s order, Marcel Montalvão, ordered the arrest of Facebook executive Diego Dzodan after WhatsApp did not turn over data in a criminal investigation, according to press reports. It was not immediately clear whether today’s order to block WhatsApp was related to the March arrest order.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The first paragraph has been corrected to indicate that the block on WhatsApp went into effect at 2 p.m. local time, not EDT.