A Brazilian judge has ordered a 72-hour nationwide shutdown of the popular messaging application WhatsApp. The move reportedly aims to increase pressure on the service to turn over client data records in a criminal case.
The decision was delivered on Monday in the northeastern state of Sergipe by Judge Marcelo Montalvao will affect more than 100 million WhatsApp users across the country.
The exact reason for the order is not known due to legal secrecy in an ongoing case in the Sergipe state court. The decision appeared, however, to be the latest attempt to force the Facebook-owned company to turn over records of chats involving an accused drug dealer to investigators.
In March, the same judge ordered the brief arrest of Facebook's vice-president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, on grounds of failing to comply with a court order to hand over the records. At the time, WhatsApp said it had no way to access the encrypted data. Dzodan was jailed and subsequently freed.
In a statement released on Monday, WhatsApp said the company was "disappointed at the decision" after doing the utmost to cooperate with Brazilian tribunals.
The decision "punishes more than 100 million users who depend upon us to communicate themselves, run their business and more, just to force us hand over information that we don't have," the statement said, without elaborating further.
Failure to comply with the nationwide block on "Whatsapp" could see Brazil's five largest mobile data providers, face fines of 500,000 reals (127,000 euros) per day.
Monday's court ruling marked the second time since mid-December that WhatsApp was targeted by a blocking order. A court shut down the service for two days shortly before Christmas, but restored it soon after following public outcry and a separate court which overturned the ruling.
Inquiry into opposition leader over corruption claims
News of the Whatsapp ban broke on Monday as Brazil's chief prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to authorize a corruption investigation into the country's opposition leader and one of embattled President Dilma Rousseff's top rivals, Aecio Neves.
Chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot called the inquiry over allegations that Neves took bribes from a corruption scheme at a state electricity company, which is linked to a wider scandal centered on state oil giant Petrobras.