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Brazil judge bans WhatsApp over child pornography

A judge in Brazil ordered the suspension of the Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp, because it failed to help an ongoing investigation on child pornography, The Guardian reports.

Folha de S Paulo newspaper said judge Luiz de Moura Correia ordered the suspension earlier this month, on 11 February, but the app is still fully functional because lawyers have sent an appeal.

If the appeal is denied, WhatsApp will have 24 hours to terminate its operations, Sinditelebrasil writes.

The judge decided not to comment on the developing story because the investigation is still ongoing, however, a press officer at the Piaui state’s public safety department said the case was linked to “sexually graphic photos of children on the app”. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing internal regulations.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to The Guardian's request for comment, and its official blog still has no information on the matter.

WhatsApp does not have an office in Brazil so the judge’s order was delivered to cellphone operators.

SindiTelebrasil, the association that represents those operators, said on its website that it considers the suspension "disproportionate“, and that it could cause “huge losses to millions of Brazilians” who use WhatsApp for personal and professional reasons.

The lawyer Fernando Mauro Barrueco, Digital Law expert, considers the decision "extreme", but it follows the law.

Internet applications like WhatsApp are obliged to provide information required by law, he said.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp last year, for approximately $22 billion (£14.29 billion). The social media giant said that the operations of the two companies are independent and that will not stand on the issue.