Skip to main content

Amid Second Ban, Psiphon Keeps WhatsApp On in Brazil

In December, Psiphon blogged about a previous blocking event in Brazil, available here.

Psiphon use surged again in Brazil in response to another nationwide suspension of WhatsApp messaging service. On May 2nd, Brazilian state judge Marcel Maia Montalvão issued an order to block WhatsApp for 72 hours. The judge is seeking user data from WhatsApp as part of a criminal investigation. The five main mobile operators were ordered to block the messaging service, beginning at Monday at 2 p.m. local time.

In response to the recent suspension of WhatsApp services, company CEO Jan Koum posted a message to Facebook stating, “Yet again millions of innocent Brazilians are being punished because a court wants WhatsApp to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have. Not only do we encrypt messages end-to-end on WhatsApp to keep people’s information safe and secure, we also don't keep your chat history on our servers. When you send an end-to-end encrypted message, no one else can read it – not even us.”

The suspension was overturned by another judge on Tuesday following an appeal from WhatsApp’s lawyers, allowing WhatsApp to resume services in Brazil.

In March, Judge Montalvão ordered the arrest of Facebook executive Diego Dzodan on charges of obstructing justice after WhatsApp failed to deliver messages subpoenaed in the criminal investigation. A day later, an appeals judge overturned that order and Dzodan was released. Although WhatsApp is owned by Facebook Inc, the two companies operate separately.

During a press conference that followed, Dzodan stated that WhatsApp is unable to turn over the data because it doesn’t store users’ messages after they’ve been delivered. In addition, the messaging service uses end-to-end encryption and messages cannot be intercepted.

Using Psiphon, Brazil’s WhatsApp users were able to retain or restore access to the application. The Psiphon user base in Brazil tripled within the first 24h of the ban. Brazil’s Globo news network recommended Psiphon to circumvent the blocking.

Psiphon in Brazil: bytes per hour, 29 April – 4 May 2016:

This case demonstrates that in response to censorship, blocking, and other restrictions, internet users will turn to known tools that connect them to content and to each other.

You can stay in touch with Psiphon via Twitter and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Popular posts from this blog

Why You Don't Need Google's Domain Fronting

Google’s removal of domain fronting emphasizes the need for solutions like Psiphon. Google has confirmed that they will block domain fronting across Google domains and App Engine. For many apps and publishers, this represents a step backwards in the fight for internet freedom. While Psiphon has never relied on this Google service, many app developers continued to depend on the practice as a convenient and straightforward means of circumventing state-level censorship, despite the long-running speculation that Google would close this loophole (eg. Will Scott’s blog post in 2017). While the announcement has been met with criticism from internet activists and service providers alike, Google has defended their decision, saying “ domain fronting has never been a supported feature ”. Domain fronting has been a popular means of censorship circumvention for several years, being embraced by popular apps like Signal, who publicly adopted the practice in 2016 . While using Google domain

Social Media and Internet Ban in Turkey

Following the detainment of 12 pro-Kurdish lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the early hours of November 4 th , Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp and Skype were blocked in Turkey . There were reports that Turk Telekom internet provider completely disabled access to the internet or throttled the connection to the point that it was impossible to connect. Despite lack of official decision about the restrictions, and BTK’s explanation that there was a technical problem throughout Turkey, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made a statement later in the day and said “For security reasons, these kinds of measures can be taken time to time. These are temporary measures. Everything goes back to normal after the danger is eliminated.” Social media and internet bans ended the following evening in most of the country, but there were still some short-term connection problems during the weekend in some regions, and it was reported that some Turk Telekom users

Psiphon Usage Surges as Brazil Blocks WhatsApp

At 9PM ET on December 16th WhatsApp was blocked in Brazil . The ban came after a judge ordered that the messenger app be blocked for 48 hours when the company refused to hand over private user information related to a criminal case. For months, Brazilian telecommunications companies have been attempting to shut down WhatsApp because it provides free messaging and voice services. WhatsApp is the most popular messenger service in Brazil and telecoms blame it for luring millions away from paid cell phone use. Internet users in Brazil reacted strongly to the ban, criticizing the decision to block WhatsApp widely on social media. Millions turned to alternate messenger services and shared circumvention techniques over social media. Psiphon was praised by people in Brazil for being free, open source, and able to keep them connected throughout the blocking event. Psiphon’s surge capacity was able to cope with the increased demand, with peak data use of more than 8x that of a normal day. Psip