Brazil prematurely lifted a 72-hour ban on Facebook’s encrypted messaging service WhatsApp on Tuesday in the wake of a public outcry.
The ban was instituted by Brazil’s five main wireless operators on Monday afternoon on the orders of a Brazilian judge in the country’s northern state of Sergipe. The decision marked the second time in less than six months the service had been blocked by Brazilian court officials.
The most recent order impacted more than 100 million WhatsApp users in Brazil, or about half the country’s population, but was lifted after just 24 hours thanks to the efforts of users who took to social media to vent their frustration.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday praised those who fought for WhatsApp’s reinstatement.
“WhatsApp is now back online in Brazil!” he wrote. “Your voices have been heard once again. Thank you to our community for helping resolve this.”
Zuckerberg also encouraged Brazilian WhatsApp users to attend a Wednesday event supporting the introduction of laws to prevent the blocking of Internet services.
“The idea that everyone in Brazil can be denied the freedom to communicate the way they want is very scary in a democracy,” Zuckerberg said. “You and your friends can help make sure this never happens again, and I hope you get involved.”
Ongoing troubles in Brazil
Monday’s ban was just the latest twist in WhatsApp’s tumultuous relationship with Brazil’s justice system.
In mid-December, a judge in São Paulo ordered wireless operators in the country to shut down the service for 48 hours. The court said that decision came after WhatsApp failed to heed two prior judicial orders earlier in the year.
At the time, Zuckerberg said he was “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.”
That initial ban, however, was ended shortly after its implementation by another judge who said it did “not seem reasonable” to punish millions of the app’s users. The second judge recommended a fine for WhatsApp instead.
In March, Brazilian officials detained Facebook’s vice president for Latin America Diego Dzodan after WhatsApp reportedly failed to comply with court orders issued in a drug trafficking investigation.
Facebook decried the action as an “extreme and disproportionate measure.”
The news from Brazil also comes amid a broader debate about whether or not technology companies should or can be forced to make their content available to law enforcement.
Notably, tech giant Apple recently wrangled with the FBI over access to locked iPhones in two separate cases. Though the FBI sought to force Apple to open the devices – and possibly set a legal precedent in the process – the cases were dropped after the agency gained access to the handsets through alternate means.
The U.S. government is also reportedly in a standoff with WhatsApp over access to user conversations. Thanks to encryption, the app is reportedly impossible for government officials to tap into, even with a judge’s order.
And the problem won’t be going away any time soon.
In February, WhatsApp announced it had accumulated one billion active monthly users. The service followed that news with an announcement in April that it was rolling out enhanced end-to-end encryption for every call made and message sent in its latest version of the app.