Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Judge Orders WhatsApp Restored in Brazil as Olympics Near

Updated on

Brazil’s chief justice ordered service restored for Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, saying the government’s decision to block the messaging app violated freedom of speech and communication in the country.

WhatsApp had been blocked earlier Tuesday for the third time in seven months in Brazil, a country where the messaging service is ubiquitous. The suspension added to the long list of difficulties Brazil is facing 17 days before the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski lifted the suspension ordered by a local judge in the district of Caxias do Sul because of the company’s failure to comply with government requests to grant access to users’ private communications, according to a statement on the Supreme Court’s website.

Brazil is heading to the Olympics deep in a two-year recession, with President Dilma Rousseff suspended amid the country’s largest corruption scandal ever. The five hospitals recommended for Olympic tourists are so full that some have been forced to leave patients on gurneys in hallways, according to a report from the local medical council. The suspension of WhatsApp added tension to the situation, as many store owners rely on the service to do business.

“We hope to see this blockade lifted as soon as possible,” WhatsApp said in an e-mail before Lewandowski’s action. “Indiscriminate acts like this one threaten people’s ability to communicate, manage their business and live their lives. As we said before, we can’t share information to which we don’t have access.”

When the service was suspended in May, the company said it doesn’t keep records of users’ conversations and therefore isn’t able to turn over data. Since the beginning of the year, the company has also implemented encryption to the messages to increase security.

(Updates with judge’s decision in first paragraph.)
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