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This is what happens when a country closes WhatsApp

Alphr logo Alphr 17-12-2015 Alan Martin
This is what happens when a country closes Whatsapp© Alphr.com This is what happens when a country closes Whatsapp

The British government occasionally flirts with the idea of blocking encrypted communication services for their perceived role in terrorist attacks. Without much needed nuance, such a blunt measure of attack would see the end of WhatsApp and other messaging services, which have made mobile communication so much easier than it used to be. Anyone who remembers the days of 160 character SMS messages costing 10p a pop would struggle to argue with that.

Well, in Brazil we now have an interesting mini case study of what happens when the law intervenes and closes down WhatsApp, albeit in a limited fashion. On Wednesday a judge told phone companies to block the messaging app for 48 hours after it failed to comply with a criminal court order back in July. The specific details of the case have not been made available, but it’s hard to see a 48-hour ban as much more than a slap on the wrist for the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which is unlikely to elicit more than a shrug.  

Here’s WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum’s 40-word digital shrug:

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We are disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many...

Posted by on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

He’s not kidding either. WhatsApp had 45 million users in Brazil as of April – a number that jumped from 38 million in February. For a country of 200 million, that’s not a bad install base at all.

Still, WhatsApp’s 48-hour loss is Telegram’s 48-hour gain. The rival social network that WhatsApp really doesn’t want you to know about tweeted that it had made massive gains since the block came into place:

More than 1.000.000 new users from Brazil today and growing. If you've just joined, check this out: https://t.co/x1haKyjvzQ

— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) December 17, 2015

It turns out that people really like their free messaging services and don’t like it when governments take them away – even if it's just for two days. Who knew?

Image: Microsiervos, used under Creative Commons

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