Brazilian court pulls the plug on WhatsApp

If you usually use WhatsApp to chat with friends and family in Brazil, you can forget about using the popular app for the next couple of days.

The Facebook-owned messaging and voice app was ordered shut down throughout the country for 48 hours by a Brazilian court on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The shutdown, which began at midnight local time (6 p.m. PT), was due to WhatsApp’s noncompliance in a criminal proceeding, according to a statement provided to Reuters by a Brazilian court in Sao Paulo.

The shutdown comes as Brazilian telecommunications companies have sought to curtail the meteoric growth of WhatsApp, which is used by people around the world to send texts without paying carrier fees. The companies claim the app undermines their own services, Reuters reported.

The messaging app is the most popular app in Brazil, used by about 93 percent of those surveyed by TechTudo, a Brazilian tech website. In April, WhatsApp reported it had 45 million users in the country, up from 38 million two months earlier.

The shutdown order came after the Sao Paulo State Justice Tribunal in São Bernardo do Campo determined WhatsApp had not complied with two earlier court orders issued this summer, Reuters reported. The nature of the case and the identity of the petitioner seeking the injunction were not immediately known.

Facebook declined to comment beyond a Facebook post by Jan Koum, the CEO of WhatsApp, that express disappointment with the decision.

“We are disappointed in the short-sighted decision to cut off access to WhatsApp, a communication tool that so many Brazilians have come to depend on, and sad to see Brazil isolate itself from the rest of the world,” Koum wrote.

Founded in 2009, WhatsApp started life as a basic text-messaging app but one that also offered the ability to leave voice messages. The app, which operates on just about every mobile platform, has also rolled out a voice calling feature, firing a shot across the bow of services like Skype and Viber.

WhatsApp has experienced consistent growth since it was acquired by Facebook last year for $19 billion — one of the largest deals in Silicon Valley history. In September, WhatsApp said it had more than 900 million monthly active users, twice the number of users it had 12 months earlier.

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