Facebook CEO urges Brazilians to decry WhatsApp block
By Natalia Scalzaretto and Caio Saad
SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's (FB.O: Quote) Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg called on Brazilians to demand his company's WhatsApp messaging service never be blocked again after an appeals court on Tuesday overturned the application's second suspension in five months.
In a post in English on his Facebook page, the U.S. billionaire and Facebook founder urged Brazilians to gather outside Congress in the capital Brasilia at 6 p.m. (1700 EDT) on Wednesday to rally in favor of legislation that would prevent Internet services from being blocked.
WhatsApp was cut off in Brazil at 2 p.m. (1300 EDT) on Monday after a judge in the remote northeastern state of Sergipe ordered Brazil's five main wireless operators to block access to the app for 72 hours. The reason for the order was not made public.
The suspension of WhatsApp's text message and Internet voice telephone service for smartphones was lifted after about 24 hours when an appeals judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of an injunction by the company's lawyers, the court said in a statement. Some 100 million users were affected.
"You and your friends can help make sure this never happens again, and I hope you get involved," Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. He also posted a link to a petition, calling efforts to block communication "very scary in a democracy."
The suspension highlighted growing international tensions between technology companies' privacy concerns and national authorities' efforts to use social media to gain information on possible criminal activities.
The same judge in Sergipe ordered the imprisonment of a Brazil-based Facebook executive in March in a dispute over demands to access the company’s encrypted messaging service as part of a drug trafficking investigation.
California-based WhatsApp had said in a statement on Monday that it was "disappointed" at the judge's decision to suspend its services. It said it had done the utmost to cooperate with Brazilian tribunals, but it did not possess the information the court was requesting. Continued...