The 100 million-odd people in Brazil who rely on WhatsApp for all their communication will not be able to access the service for at least 72 hours. According to Brazil’s largest newspaper, a state judge named Marcel Maia Montalvão, ordered the block because of the Facebook-owned company’s refusal to roll over like a puppy and hand over private user data to the government.
This isn’t the first time this is happening, too. Late last year, a Judge shut down WhatsApp for around 12 hours after extensive lobbying by local telcos. Users in Brazil have stopped using SMS entirely, and do most of their communication via WhatsApp, so one can only imagine the (economic) impact on the millions of people affected.
So, it’s a double whammy. There’s the fact that governments in developing countries are obsessed with playing big brother with their citizens (not surprisingly, including the one we have here in Nigeria) and on the other hand, OTT (Over-The-Top) services like WhatsApp have presented a threat to the gargantuan profits local telcos used to…inhale. A16z partner, Benedict Evans paints a clearer picture:
Mobile operators spend $1/4tr a year on capex
WhatsApp sends 2.5x more messages than SMS, w/ 57 engineers
Unfair – but very, very relevant
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) February 2, 2016
While telcos in Brazil are responding by getting the government to block access, our Nigerian friends briefly considered asking Facebook and Google to pay them for access to the Nigerian consumers who use their service. Brilliant, LOL. Goodluck with that.
The last WhatsApp ban was cut short in righteousness because it “does not seem reasonable that millions of users are affected due to the inertia of the company”.
Let’s hope this time, someone in the Brazilian government receives such a profound revelation, and they don’t end up screwing people’s businesses up for up to 72 hours. Let’s hope.
This saga looks more interesting when you realise that WhatsApp cannot even grant the government the information it is looking for in the first place. Here’s your bit of trivia for the day: they recently enabled end-to-end encryption for all their messages – text, image and video – and you cannot give what you do not have.
This gon’ be good.
Update 4-May-2016: Verge reports that the court order to block WhatsApp has been overturned. And no, it’s not because WhatsApp has somehow rolled over for the Brazilian government. Founder, Jan Klum said “we have no intention of compromising the security of our billion users around the world.” I also read that users were beginning to take their conversations to Telegram – effectively switching one encrypted messaging app for another.